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Dreams of Stable Life: Plight of Refugees to Ohio

About 2,000 refugees arrived in the Buckeye State in fiscal year 2016. (Pixabay)
About 2,000 refugees arrived in the Buckeye State in fiscal year 2016. (Pixabay)
June 20, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Despite divisive political rhetoric over the past year on the issue of international refugees, many Ohio cities are welcoming with open arms those seeking safe haven.

Angie Plummer, executive director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus, says there are sizable refugee populations in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

She points out these are people who fled conflict in their home countries, including Somalia, Bhutan, Bosnia and Syria, and want to build a new life and become part of the community.

"Refugees are just people who have dreams of living in safety and their children going to school, and having a stable job,” she stresses. “They are our friends and neighbors and teach us a lot about values. It's really that opportunity for personal interaction that helps break down those barriers."

Today is World Refugee Day, and according to the Refugee Processing Center, from October through May, about 2,000 refugees arrived in the Buckeye State.

Community Refugee and Immigration Service resettles hundreds of people each year by helping them find work, learn English and establish a home, and by providing other needed social services.

Plummer says refugees face a major cultural adjustment.

"When we first see them, those first 90 days are particularly stressful,” she states. “And then at the year mark when we're able to help them apply for their permanent residence, it's amazing what transformation has happened, because at that point they know they're going to be OK. And so it just takes some patience and some time."

Plummer says World Refugee Day is an important observance, and events are scheduled around Ohio to honor the contributions of refugees.

"Our goal is to celebrate the resilience of the people who have been fortunate enough to be resettled, but also to remember those whose human potential is not being fulfilled and who continue to live in danger and need some kind of long-term solution to their plight," she states.

Plummer notes that refugees increase cultural diversity, contribute to the economy and revitalize communities with declining populations.

A new report from the Center for American Progress shows that 10 years after being in the U.S., refugees have similar rates of labor force participation and business ownership compared with U.S. born citizens.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH