Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Iraqi refugees in Atlanta

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2008 at 3:34 PM

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This week’s CL cover story is about Ahmad Ali, an Iraqi man now living as a refugee in metro Atlanta. Ali fled his crumbling nation’s violence in 2006. After living in Syria for 15 months, he was granted refugee status by the U.S. government. He and his family moved to Doraville in 2007.

A refugee is not a migrant. Migrants leave their country of origin voluntarily in search of economic opportunity, political freedom, education, adventure, or any combination of those reasons.

A refugee is someone fleeing mortal danger -- war, persecution, natural disaster, etc. One hundred forty-seven nations are party to UN-sanctioned agreements about the treatment of refugees. During the last half century, the United Nations has helped 50 million refugees rebuild their lives.

Among the responsibilities that many nations have taken on is the promise to accept refugees each year as legal residents. The United States took in about 70,000 refugees in 2007. Refugees have social security numbers and are allowed to work.

Since the 1990s, metro Atlanta has become home to about 50,000 refugees from around the world. They come from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burma and Iraq, to name just a few.

Strictly speaking, refugees don’t come to Atlanta. They’re brought to Atlanta -- by refugee resettlement agencies. Metro Atlanta is a popular location for refugees because the cost of housing is relatively low and the job market here is relatively welcoming to unskilled workers who often do not speak English.

Ali was resettled in Doraville by the local office of the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian agency founded in 1933 with the help of Albert Einstein to aid people fleeing Hitler.

IRC found the Alis their home, some furniture and is helping with their rent for four months. After that, the Alis are largely on their own.

IRC is just one of the organizations in Atlanta doing great work on behalf of refugees. Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta, World Relief, Refugee Family Services, International Community School and Catholic Charities are some of the others.

If you're interested in donating your time or your money, or just learning more about refugees in Atlanta, these are good places to start.

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