Georgia Refugee Advocate Speaks at UWG

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s fourth Controversies of Culture series highlighted the plight of the estimated 15 million refugees worldwide. The event, titled “Refugees: Global Issues and Local Engagement,” was held at the Ingram Library on Wednesday, Feb. 20. It focused on the global importance of refugee situations worldwide and the efforts being made to combat these situations on both local and international levels.

The keynote speaker of the series was Mathew George, associate director of Strategy and Program Support at Refugee Family Services in Stone Mountain, Ga. He spoke about the struggles refugees face after being displaced from their homelands due to persecution or conflict.

“The average wait time in a refugee camp (before repatriation or resettlement) is seven to eight years,” said George. “The United States welcomes about 70,000 refugees from all over the world annually, and that number represents roughly 70 percent of the total worldwide quota for refugee resettlement. This means that there are only about 100,000 resettlement chances available annually for refugees. Of the 15 million refugees worldwide, only about 1 percent of them get resettled.”

For their first six months in the United States, refugees who are resettled here are financially and materially supported by the agencies that organized their move. After those six months, the refugees are left to fend for themselves. They are often placed in parts of the U.S. where people of their ethnic groups or nationalities reside in order to make the assimilation process easier.

Currently, Georgia has the highest rate in the nation of resettled refugees holding employment at 80 percent. Once they arrive in the U.S., refugees are eligible to work, apply for permanent residency after one year and apply for citizenship after five years.

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