Refugee resettlement from sub-Saharan Africa

Refugee resettlement from sub-Saharan Africa

CWS has been working with refugees since we first opened our doors in 1946. Since that time, we have helped hundreds of thousands of refugees to access safety and protection and begin new lives in the United States. Over the years there have been refugees bound for the U.S. from across the globe, including Europe in the aftermath of World War II, families from Southeast Asia after the war in Vietnam and today people from every continent who are fleeing persecution with hopes of finding safety and a new home.

Since 1990, CWS has partnered with the U.S. Department of State to administer the Resettlement Support Center for Africa. This center is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and serves refugees who are identified by the UN Refugee Agency as needing resettlement to a safe location. The dedicated CWS/RSC team works to process thousands of cases each year, and assists U.S. government officials who conduct final interviews with refugees for their legal admission to the U.S. The CWS/RSC team travels to both remote and urban locations throughout Africa to serve the most vulnerable refugees where they live.

Our impact


Opening in 1990, CWS began processing applications on behalf of the US Department of State in a small one-room office in Nairobi, Kenya. That office has now grown to over 230 staff and last year was able to assist 28,000 refugees in their journey to the United States. The Nairobi office remains the center of much of RSC Africa’s work on the continent and serves as a hub for our field missions to each of the 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Photo: Annie Griffiths/Ripple Effect Images


Hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world, Ethiopia remains a consistent location for RSC Africa work in the region. Teams were able to assist refugees in the camps to the east near Somalia, the north near Eritrea, the west near Sudan, and also refugees who reside in urban locations like Addis Ababa.

Photo: Will Haney/CWS

The Great Lakes region

The Great Lakes Region of East Africa has continued to host large refugee populations over the years. From Burundians in Tanzania to Congolese refugees in Rwanda, each country in the region has hosted refugees over the years and at times been the source of those fleeing as well. Teams from RSC Africa continue to interview and assist refugees in all of the countries surrounding the Great Lakes of East Africa.

Photo: Margie Nicoara

Southern Africa

Southern Africa is host to large numbers of Congolese refugees as well as other smaller populations. Several countries in the region, including South Africa, have very progressive policies towards refugees. These countries also however have experienced periods of intense xenophobic violence in which refugees are often the victims. With this in mind, refugee resettlement continues to be a recourse for many refugees in the area who hope for a safe and secure future.

Photo: CWS

West Africa

In 2010, after over a decade of work, CWS decided to close its regional resettlement office in Accra, Ghana. This was a happy occasion, as we all hope for the day when there are no longer refugees in the world and every person has found a safe place to call home. Yet, even though the office in Ghana closed, there were still small refugee populations throughout West Africa. Today, teams based in other regions of the continent will take short missions to West Africa in order to continue resettlement assistance to those populations.

Photo: Callie Long