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Economy Doesn't Stop Iraqi Migration to Michigan

July 20, 2009

DETROIT - The reeling Michigan economy and easing of tensions in Iraq have not stopped an influx of Iraqi refugees. Lutheran Social Services of Michigan says the Detroit area already has the largest Iraqi community in the U.S., and it continues to grow. Belmin Pinjic, the director of refugee services for the organization, says there's also another wave of Iraqi migration to Detroit from other parts of the United States.

"Within the last ten months, our agency was able to register more than 350 individuals who came to metropolitan Detroit through secondary migration."

Pinjic says that, despite the economy, Detroit is still very attractive to these refugees because of the large Chaldean population in the region. The Chaldeans are an Iraqi Christian minority, estimated to be at least 200,000 strong in Michigan. Lutheran Social Services helps refugees with resettlement, employment, transportation and language.

Pinjic says the number of refugees is still growing.

"At a time when people are leaving metropolitan Detroit and Michigan as a whole, these people are coming in here."

Pinjic says metro Detroit is home to the oldest Arab-American and Chaldean communities in the nation and that's one reason it's so attractive as a destination.

"But Michigan, especially metropolitan Detroit in particular, is the largest area of Iraqi population in the United States."

Some employment experts say the influx of engineers, teachers and other professionals could be a boon to the area once these people are resettled and re-certified.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MI