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Agencies: Refugee resettlements on target

Last modified: 5/28/2012 12:00:00 AM
Two-thirds into their fiscal year, the main refugee resettlement agencies in the state say they are on target to reach or fall slightly short of their projected new cases this year.

Lutheran Social Services, which works primarily in Concord, Nashua and Laconia, has settled 145 people so far this year, about 60 percent of the cases it projected to handle between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30.

Most of those people are refugees from Bhutan, and about 65 percent have settled in Concord; the others were settled in Laconia or Nashua. Most of the new arrivals are related to refugees who have already settled in New Hampshire, said program director Amy Marchildon.

'Nationally, we've been a little bit slower this year overall,' she said. 'There were new security measures implemented in the beginning of the year so it's taken a while to move refugees' through the system.

'It's hard to anticipate what will happen in coming months, but we've heard that the implementation process of some of the security measures is smoothing out, so we think that nationally there may be an increase in Iraqi arrivals, but we haven't been resettling Iraqi cases here, so we don't see any substantial changes coming for us,' Marchildon said.

Usually, annual projections are accurate, though in the past few years, the agency has settled slightly fewer cases than they have anticipated, she said.

One exception was in 2004, when a humanitarian crisis in Somalia led the State Department to resettle more refugees nationwide than anticipated that year.

The International Institute of New Hampshire works primarily in Manchester, where it has so far this year settled 74 people, mostly Bhutanese refugees with family members in the city, according to site director Nasir Arush.

Last fall, the institute estimated it would handle 200 cases during the fiscal year, he said. 'These are very immediate family members: brothers, sisters,' Arush said.

The Senate last week killed a bill that would have allowed communities to place a moratorium on resettlements, requested by Manchester officials citing an inability to serve refugees already in the city.

Arush took over the Manchester site director position two weeks ago and said he is hopeful he can continue opening lines of communication with the officials who sought the moratorium, particularly Mayor Ted Gatsas and Alderman Pat Long.

He plans to meet with Gatsas next week, though the two worked together previously, Arush said.

'I had a very good conversation with him when I was in New Hampshire and was very involved in many initiatives in the past ten years for services to enhance the lives of refugees in Manchester,' he said. 'I really thought this is a good fit for me and a good opportunity to have someone with my experience and background as someone who is very known in Manchester to take this job.'

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com)


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