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August 19. 2013 12:35AM

Manchester mayor says 200 refugees breaks promise

Another 200 refugees will be resettled in Manchester in the coming months, a number that Mayor Ted Gatsas said breaks an agreement he had reached with a refugee resettlement organization.

However, the International Institute of New England said the agreement was only for a 12-month period that lapses next month. And the projection for the coming 12 months — 200 refugees for Manchester — is the same as the current period. An additional 50 will be placed in Nashua.

Carolyn Benedict-Drew, the director of the Boston-based International Institute of New England, said the refugees entering New Hampshire starting in October will most likely be Bhutanese and Iraqis.

Benedict-Drew said Bhutanese started settling in Manchester in 2008, and the first wave are in the pipeline to become citizens, about 300.

"These are going to be voting members of our community who will be building the economic base in New Hampshire," Benedict-Drew said.

Iraqis include some who fought alongside Americans during the Iraqi war, she said.

A recent report by the International Institute of New Hampshire prepared for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said that the state's two largest cities have a favorable economic forecast, medical clinics and facilities to treat refugees with mental health and physical problems, including HIV/AIDs, and access to state funding for English classes.
 
 
 
 

The abstract report described Gatsas as neutral on the additional 200 refugees.

But Gatsas said that's not the case, and he continues to favor a moratorium on refugee resettlement. He noted the Democratic mayor of Springfield, Mass., has asked for a moratorium.

"We need to get the folks that are here in the system and give them opportunities: let them be educated and get an opportunity to work," Gatsas said.

"We should slow it down here before we bring in another 200," he said.

Refugee resettlement follows the federal budget calendar, which ends Sept. 30. Plans have been formulated over the summer for the coming year. Gatsas said an agreement was reached that 150 would be settled in Manchester and 50 elsewhere.

Benedict-Drew said the agreement only covered the current year.

"There was never an agreement for more than one year," she said. "We honored it for one year."

Benedict-Drew said she likes Gatsas and asked to have the phrase that described him as neutral on the 200 refugees redacted.
mhayward@unionleader.com


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