- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Nearly two dozen refugees are scheduled Saturday to become U.S. citizens at a special ceremony in Albuquerque.

Twenty-three immigrants - 21 of whom are refugees - are slated to be naturalized as part of a “World Refugee Day” celebration at the Cesar Chavez Community Center.

Amanda Michelle Orta, of Catholic Charities Center for Refugee Settlement & Support, said these candidates for citizenship come from all over the world, including Iran, China, Nepal and Rwanda.

“Being that we are in central New Mexico, there is a lot of advocacy around undocumented immigrants,” Orta said. “There is not a lot of advocacy around refugees.”

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. Refugees cannot return home or are afraid to do so, officials said.

After the ceremony, advocates will host a “World Refugee Day” celebration aimed at honoring the contribution of refugees in New Mexico and giving residents a chance to learn more about various programs.

The plight of refugees is gaining more attention recently because of Central American migrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border, although those migrants aren’t officially considered refugees, Orta said.

A report released Thursday by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shows that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.

The massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced, the report said.