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Syrian refugees in NH mix

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 27. 2016 10:04PM
In this image taken from video, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Migration, and Refugees Anne Richard speaks about U.S. humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. (

Fourteen refugees from Syria have settled in New Hampshire over the past 12 months, a fraction of the more than 500 refugees from across the globe who have made the Granite State their home over that time period.

The number of Syrian refugees was reported Tuesday in an Associated Press article that detailed the resettlement of Syrian refugees in New England. Citing a website maintained by the State Department, the news organization said nine people settled in Manchester; five in Concord.

Overall, 650 Syrian refugees have settled in New England.

“Integration is a big thing right now for them,” said Samer Dukhan, a 29-year-old Manchester resident and Syrian native whose friends have met some of the arrivals.

“They are a family, simple people who want to settle down and start their life again. They lost everything,” said Dukhan, who entered the United States five years ago on a student visa and remains here on protected status.

During a news briefing Tuesday in Washington, a State Department official said almost 12,500 Syrian refugees have entered the United States in the past 12 months, 25 percent more than a goal set by Obama.

“This administration has been very clear that we want to bring more Syrians, so my own guidance to our staff is that we want to bring even more than we brought this year,” said Anne C. Richard, assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

“Our vetting is extremely rigorous and careful, and it’s been gone over now for months by a lot of colleagues and analysts,” Richard said.

The article appeared on the same day that Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan complained that Washington has done nothing to address her concerns about refugee vetting. She said her call for a temporary pause in Syrian refugee resettlement is still a good idea.

“We know that ISIS has targeted the refugee system,” Hassan said in an interview Tuesday on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange. “I’m very disappointed that almost one year after the Paris attacks Washington hasn’t done anything to truly address these issues.”

She added that the United States can be both a safe country and welcoming to refugees.

Over the past 12 months, 513 refugees settled in New Hampshire, according to the state Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs.

A plurality — 192 — settled in Manchester; 182 in Concord; 138 in Nashua; 1 in Dover.

In Manchester, Mayor Ted Gatsas said he is fine with the vetting process as long as it has not been weakened. In the past, it took nearly two years for potential refugees to be vetted, he said.

The only information the city gets about new refugees is when they are screened by the Health Department, he said.

The Health Department showed 160 refugees moved into the city of Manchester from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 20, he said.

He said his concerns about refugee resettlement hasn’t changed.

“The refugees here — before the next wave comes — have to learn the language, have a job and be productive members of society. I don’t mean two weeks working at Lindt Chocolates; that’s not a job,” Gatsas said.

In her news briefing, Richard said refugees tend to be very successful, but not in the short term.

VIDEO: Anne C. Richard, assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, talks about U.S. humanitarian aid in the Syrian crisis:

She said refugees have resettled in 180 cities across the United States, and additonal cities have expressed interest in refugee resettlement. She said the State Department tries not to send refugees to communities where housing is expensive or jobs are scarce.

“That’s why the consultation with local leaders is an essential part of the program,” Richard said.

Gatsas on Tuesday said no one from inside or outside of federal or state government contacts him to discuss refugees.

As a whole, the United States took in 85,000 refugees in the 12-month period that ends on Friday, Richard said.

“Later this week we will meet our goal of welcoming more refugees than we have in the last 15 years,” Richard said. The country plans on taking in 110,000 in the upcoming fiscal year, she said.

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