The Countries that Are Sending the Most Refugees to California in 2023

California, known for its diversity and inclusivity, has a longstanding tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution, violence, and human rights abuses in their homelands.

In August 2023, California received 2,374 refugees, ranking second only to Texas in refugee intake. This article explores the main sources of these refugees and the underlying reasons motivating them to seek shelter.

1. Ukraine

Leading the list of countries contributing refugees to California in 2023 is Ukraine, with 1,023 arrivals in August. This surge is primarily attributed to President Biden’s “Uniting for Ukraine” program, launched in April 2022, offering refuge to 100,000 Ukrainian immigrants through sponsors.

The program was established in response to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, triggered by the annexation of Crimea and separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, resulting in more than 13,000 casualties and displacing over 1.4 million individuals since 2014.

Ukrainians have faced political repression, human rights violations, and economic hardships under President Volodymyr Zelensky’s regime.

2. Afghanistan

The second-largest group of refugees resettled in California in 2023 comes from Afghanistan, with 537 arrivals in August. Afghanistan has been plagued by decades of warfare, violence, and instability, exacerbated by the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops in September 2021.

The resurgence of the Taliban, an extremist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, resulted in the imposition of a repressive regime, especially detrimental to women, minorities, activists, and dissenters.

The sudden fall of the Afghan government prompted the exodus of former officials, military personnel, interpreters, and U.S. allies, fearing Taliban retaliation. California, with its sizable Afghan-American community, became a primary destination for Afghan refugees due to its capacity to offer support and integration services.

3. Iran

Iran stands as the third-largest country of origin for refugees resettled in California in 2023, with 265 arrivals in August.

Iran’s authoritarian regime severely restricts civil and political liberties, particularly for women, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT+ individuals, journalists, human rights defenders, and political dissidents.

Moreover, the nation grapples with economic sanctions, exacerbating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and poverty.

Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts and proxy wars with various actors has further heightened insecurity and violence within the country and its neighbors. Consequently, many Iranians seek refuge abroad to escape persecution or economic hardship.


The refugee crisis is a global challenge that necessitates collective action and empathy. California, with its history of embracing refugees and providing opportunities for a better life, continues to play a significant role in this humanitarian effort.

Understanding the origins of these refugees and the circumstances that led them to seek refuge can foster greater empathy and support for these individuals as they endeavor to rebuild their lives in a new land.


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