The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 3:50 pm

Catholic Charities could help resettle more refugees


Fort Wayne's Catholic Charities, a nonprofit faith-based organization, may be called on to help resettle a larger number of refugees if the new administration of President Joe Biden succeeds in upping the number of persecuted people being admitted to the United States.

Officials from the group said in a news conference as many as 62,500 people may be cleared for admission by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, up from 15,000, according to Biden administration statements.

The new number might double during the next fiscal year, agency officials said.

Fort Wayne's Catholic Charities gets only a small fraction of all new U.S. arrivals as one of the government-approved resettlement agencies. The group is the only such refugee resettlement agency in northeast Indiana. Other organizations extend some refugee services.

The agency had been working with 200 to 250 people annually about a decade ago, but that number has dropped to 150 to 100 recently, said Nyein Chan, the agency's director of resettlement.

Nationally, the largest number of recent refugees has come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo followed by Ukraine, he said. He added those who have fled Myanmar, formerly Burma, are "4th or 5th" on the list.

But, because Fort Wayne has established itself as  successfully resettling those from fleeing Myanmar, those refugees often find their way or are directed here -- partly because national policy stresses reunification of families, Chan said.

The recent unrest in Myanmar, described as a military coup by some in the international community, could lead to more people leaving and seeking refugee status, Chan said.

Those people might be members of several ethnic groups or religions because repression now will likely be based on political views, not just minority status, said Chan, himself a refugee from the country who came to the United States in 1994.

But refugees still await resettlement in camps in Thailand and other countries, he said. The process can take several years, so they won't arrive in the United States soon, Chan said.

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