JESSICA THEA, FELLOW
Jessica Thea is a fellow at Refugees International. Prior to joining RI, Jessica worked with several organizations, including PresenTense Group, a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs build sustainable social ventures, and IMBY, a fashion-based advocacy startup that supports safe working conditions and fair wages. In 2014, Jessica founded Cultivating Connections, which promotes cultural exchange between a community of refugees in St. Louis and local college students. Her article on international intervention and the effectiveness of foreign aid during the 1994 plague outbreak in Surat, India was published in the journal Slideshow. She earned her B.A. in International Development from Washington University in St. Louis.
As the crisis in Venezuela has intensified, 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled their homes—many to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Only 40 miles from the coast of Venezuela, an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 Venezuelans have fled to Curaçao in search of safe harbor. But once on the island, many of them live hidden and afraid with no real opportunities to obtain international protection or other forms of legal stay.
Turkey currently hosts the largest population of refugees in the world, including a growing number of Afghan refugees. Following a recent change in asylum procedures for Afghans and other non-Syrians in Turkey, Afghans have been facing increasing difficulties in registering with the authorities. Izza Leghtas and Jessica Thea recommend ways in which Turkish officials can make policy adjustments that will better ensure the rights of refugees.
A Refugees International team traveled to Curaçao in February 2019 to investigate the conditions for Venezuelans living there. It quickly became clear to us that the fate of Venezuelans in Curaçao might very well be the worst of those seeking refuge in the region.
As Turkey takes sole responsibility from UNHCR for processing the asylum claims of Afghans and other non-Syrians, it must register them and allow them to access their basic rights, say Refugees International’s Izza Leghtas and Jessica Thea.
On July 19, 1979, thirty-nine years ago, Refugees International undertook its first large-scale public advocacy effort on behalf of refugees. On that date, then-executive director Diane Lawson, along with one of RI’s founders Michael Morrissey, published a full-page ad in the Washington Post. Addressed to U.S. senators and representatives, the advocacy letter called for increased support for Indochinese refugees and set the course for our organization’s decades-long commitment to advocating for lifesaving action.
In this blog, part of the "Welcoming Communities" series, Jessica Thea writes about the organization Northern Virginia Friends of Refugees, which is comprised of 640 members representing faith communities, NGOs, elected government officials, refugee communities, businesses, and schools in the D.C. area. The community-based group is dedicated to mobilizing communities in support of refugees who have resettled in the greater Washington, D.C. region.
In an age of travel bans and closing borders, communities across the United States continue to welcome recently arrived refugees into their neighborhoods. As a student at Washington University in St. Louis, a city troubled by economic disparity and home to an often isolated resettled refugee population, it was hard not to notice how insulated my campus was from its surrounding neighborhoods. I wanted to change that.