MCIV BLOG

Friday, May 11, 2018

Refugee in Montana

Stephen Maly, WorldMontaan Board Member                                                               Stephen Maly, WorldMontana Board Member.

There are over 65 million people displaced by war and sectarian violence in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Most are living in camps, with little prospect of ever being able to return to their home countries and communities. The refugee situation is worse now than at any time since the second world war.

Our organization supports refugee resettlement efforts in Montana. We have joined a new network of non-profit entities that includes the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Softlanding Missoula, and Gallatin Refugee Connections. To date, WorldMontana has engaged primarily in educational outreach, bringing people together to learn about immigration laws and processes that apply to refugees from war-torn areas and their resettlement in the United States. We have worked closely with Kathe Quittenton, the state refugee coordinator at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. WorldMontana board president Jeanette Fregulia was instrumental in hosting the first refugee resettlement network “summit” at Carroll College last fall.

Refugee resettlement is in a state of flux. President Trump has established an annual cap of 45,000 refugee entrants, the lowest on record, and only about a third of the total recommended by the previous administration. The repeated issuance of travel bans affecting refugees from a number of majority Muslim countries has caused turmoil, confusion, and delay in the complicated vetting procedures that any individual refugee must undergo before being admitted into the United States. Arrivals into the country have slowed to a trickle. The State Department is requiring refugee resettlement offices with fewer than 100 arrivals per year to close.

The IRC is the only resettlement agency operating in Montana. Their office in Missoula, working alongside Softlanding (a local non-profit), has resettled 135 individuals since the summer of 2016. The largest number have come from Eritrea and Congo, both in Africa; other persons and families have come from Syria and Iraq. With plans to bring in 125 more in fiscal year 2018, which ends next September 30, the IRC will not be forced to shut down. This means WorldMontana members will have opportunity to assist with welcoming refugees to our state in the months ahead.

We can collect and deliver material aid to refugee households in Missoula. Softlanding has issued a list of much-needed items, including diapers, lamps, computers, flat screen TVs, vacuum cleaners, cooking pots, bike helmets, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. Earlier this winter, the Gallatin Refugee Connections undertook a Bozeman area drive to assemble and ship Welcome Kits for 5 new refugee families in Missoula that included these and other practical necessities. They also sponsored a screening of the film Salam Neighbor at MSU in February. We could do likewise!

Softlanding is planning to host its second annual World Refugee Day Soccer Tournament on June 16. WorldMontana may want to send a delegation from the Helena area to observe and support that festive occasion. Who knows, maybe we could muster a group of young soccer players to represent our community as well! (Such an endeavor would dovetail with our own ambitions to build an outreach program locally centered on international students and World Cup events.)

 

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