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Jed Boal reportingThe steady wave of refugees arriving in Utah will soon get better services to help them resettle here.
The governor established an Office of Refugee Services. It's a one-stop office to ease a transition that can be traumatic.
Abdulkadir Haji, his wife Faiza and their seven children landed in Salt Lake City yesterday. Abdulkadir says, "I am so excited being here in the USA now.
They fled war-torn Somalia in 1995 and lived 12 years in a Kenyan refugee camp. Until now that's the only life the children know, but they have new expectations. Abdulkadir says he expects, "A good life, a good future."
They stopped at Social Security and Workforce Services to get the paperwork going for assistance and work; a process made easier in the future. Gov. Jon Huntsman says, "They're looking for friends and looking for a little stability. I like to think the way we handle that is a reflection of our collective heart and soul."
For a year, a refugee working group studied the needs of our growing refugee population.
As a result, the governor established the Office of Refugee Services in the Department of Workforce Services; a clearinghouse of information and resources for the newly arrived. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says, "There are just a lot of services out there in the community. We need to make sure we are delivering those services to our refugee population."
They number 20,000, and will keep coming.
The refugees resettled in Utah in the ‘90s came mostly from Eastern European countries; people familiar with western culture.
Those settled since 2000 are more diversified; predominantly from African nations, people from cultures very different from ours.
Right now, the surge of refugees comes from Burma and Iraq. Palmer DePaulis, executive director for the Department of Community and Culture, says, "That office can advocate for refugees, can advocate for resources, and will be much more highly visible in the community."
And with a whole new culture to explore, families like the Hajis will need new friends like that.
Funding for refugees in Utah has always come from federal and community sources. This new office will ask for help from the legislature this upcoming session.