Refugee Populations

Each year, the Kansas resettles approximately 350 refugees annually. The majority of refugees being resettled currently include people from three main groups. They are Iraqis, Bhutanese and Burmese. Somali refugees are coming to Kansas in secondary resettlement, primarily to work in the meatpacking industry. For the current and past fiscal year refugee admissions to the United States go to Following is cultural and historical information that may be helpful in providing services to these refugees.


The Bhutanese refugees are coming from refugee camps in Nepal. They are almost all ethnic Nepalis from Southern Bhutan who have been living in the camps for more than 16 years since being expelled from Bhutan. Despite living in Bhutan since the 1800s they retained their Nepali language, culture and religions. Nearly all speak Nepali as a first or second language and about 35% have a functional knowledge of English. Sixty percent are Hindu, 27% are Buddhists and 10% are Kirate, an indigenous religion similar to animism. The percentage of Christians varies from 1-7%. The Nepalis divide themselves into a caste system which separates people into different social levels and influence the choice of marriage and other social relationships.


Burma, also called Myanmar, is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the World with more than 130 distinctive subgroups. The largest ethnic group is the Burmans or Bamar at about 68% of the population. They tend to be valley dwelling people who are Buddhists and mostly literate. The remaining other ethnic groups include Chin, Kachin, Karen and many others. They are mostly hill people who are largely non literate spirit worshippers or animist. . Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and has more than half a million refugees in their neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Thailand. Around 150,000 people, mostly Karen and Karenni are living in designated camps in Thailand, some for more that two decades. Another 22,000 are in camps in Bangladesh that date back to 1992. The United States is resettling Karen and Burmans from refugee camps in Thailand and Chin from Malaysia. For more information refer to
Burmese Refugees Powerpoint (.pdf) |
Keeping Track of Refugees from Burma Powerpoint (.pdf)


The United States have begun to resettle refugees that the UNHCR has determined are at greatest risk for returning to Iraqi due to the Iraq War. The new Iraqi arrivals join previous groups of Iraqi refugees resettled in the Unites state after the 1991 Gulf War and the 1996 Iraqis linked to the U.S. sponsored coup attempt. Iraq includes a number of diverse ethnic groups, religions and languages. Iraq’s population is approximately 75-80% Arab, and 15-20% Kurd, with smaller numbers of Armenians, Assyrians and Turk omen. Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by 97% of the population. Of the Iraqi Muslims, 60-65% are Shi’i Arabs and 32-37% are Sunni Arabs or Kurds. A small number of Iraqis are syncretic Muslims. Christians make up 3% or the population. Arabic, the national language, is spoken with some level of proficiency by all Iraqis. For more in-depth information regarding people from Iraq go to


Somali’s population is mostly rural. Nearly 80% of people are agriculturalists or pastoralist or camels, cattle, sheep and goats. The nomadic way of life is celebrated. Most of the population is urban dwellers especially in the past few years as civil war and famine have led hundreds of thousands have poured into the cities seeking sanctuary and relief. Ethnically and cultural, Somalia is one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa, though the people Bantu from the south and Arabs from the costal cities are important minority groups. The great majority of the people is ethnic Somali and they speak dialects of the same language and practice Islam. Clans are the heart of Somali society and people often have greater allegiance to this lineage than to the nation. See For more information about Somali refugees.