A critical conversation about refugee resettlement in Georgia

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Last night Creative Loafing and the Center for Civic Innovation presented a conversation about refugee resettlement in Georgia — the second event of our new public discussion series Social Studies. The room was packed with about 150 people (it was the largest event CCI has hosted to date) eager to listen and ask questions about refugees' arrival, lives, and challenges in Georgia. Panelists included Holly Frew of CARE USA, Paedia Mixon of New American Pathways, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, and Hussein Mohamed of Sagal Radio Services. CL News Editor Thomas Wheatley moderated.

Frew, who has visited Jordan and Turkey many times in recent months as part of CARE's response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, spoke about the families and individuals she's met, many of whom are professionals with Masters degrees and PhDs and entrepreneurs now unable to work as they live in limbo in bordering countries. The years-long conflict in Syria has displaced millions. The US will allow 85,000 refugees worldwide in 2016, up from 70,000 in 2015. Last fall, as the migrant crisis in Syria and Europe was reaching a boiling point, Gov. Nathan Deal said he would block Syrian refugees from coming to Georgia. In early January, he reversed course after State Attorney General Sam Olens said there were no legal grounds for resisting resettlement.

Frew said only 20 percent of Syrian refugees are in camps. The majority of those seeking refuge are living in urban areas. Frew said that among the people she'd met there is a strong desire to be able to return home to Syria under peaceful conditions. Mixon explained New American Pathways' role as a local resettlement agency and the services she, her staff, and volunteers provide to help new residents find housing, work, medical care, English lessons and more. She talked in detail about the rigorous screening process, which can take up to two years, that candidates must undergo. She pointed out that Georgia has one of the country's highest success rates for refugees reaching self-sufficiency: 87 percent within 180 days. Mohamed told his story of coming to the US and landing in Georgia via Chicago. Both he and Terry stressed the importance of voting as a way to have an impact on the futures of refugees in metro Atlanta, Georgia, and the US.

Our next Social Studies event will take place Wed., March 9. Stay tuned for the topic — and thanks to Monday Night Brewing for supplying beer last night. Check out a few more photos after the break.

Full gallery here.

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