Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and its affiliate agency Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees happily welcomed the first Somali Bantu refugee to Utica, N.Y., last week. With nothing more than a small backpack of personal belongings, Mohamed Muktar arrived in Utica Friday afternoon after a long journey that began in Nairobi, Kenya, several days before. He is the first member of his long-oppressed people to be resettled by LIRS, with thousands to follow.
Muktar's arrival marks the beginning of the U.S. government's largest resettlement effort ever for a group of African refugees. As the descendants of slaves with nearly 200 years of abuse and persecution in Somalia, the Bantu have been identified as a population in special need of protection. LIRS, in partnership with its national network of 27 affiliate agencies, will help over 1,500 Somali Bantu make new lives in communities across the country. In total, 12,000 Bantu are expected to arrive in the United States over the next two-three years.
"This is an exciting group to help," says LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr. "These vulnerable people are truly refugees for whom resettlement in a third country is the only durable solution. We are gratified to see our government working with the international community to make this happen."
The following press release was submitted on behalf of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Meg Arenberg, President's Office Assistant
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
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