BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB)- The U.S. has only accepted around 1,500 Syrian refugees since a civil war broke out there more than four years ago.
That’s about to change: President Obama announced Thursday that 10,000 more will be allowed to enter the U.S. in the coming year.
A few hundred of them will end up in Erie County. For 50-100 of those refugees, their first stop in Western New York will be Journey’s End Refugee Services.
The agency has already resettled three Syrian families. It’s one of four resettlement agencies in Erie County and provides a variety of services for refugees who arrive here.
Executive Director Karen Andolina Scott said refugees in Erie County are nothing new.
“It’s been happening for a very long time and Buffalo has been a very welcoming community,” she said.
She said the ongoing crisis and the large volumes of Syrians seeking refuge in Europe makes this new wave unique, but Journey’s End staff is prepared.
There are several Arabic speaking staff members, plus many who know firsthand what it’s like to start over.
People like Nazar Jabar: he came to the U.S from Iraq in 2005. He’s not a refugee, but spent time in Syria and will work closely with the refugees that arrive.
For many, he told News 4 the everyday freedoms will be the biggest challenge.
“Now you have the right to say what you need to say. You have people protecting you, you have people around you taking care of you,” Jabar told News 4.
The process is a complex one. First refugees have to register with the United Nations; once selected to come to the U.S., they’ll need to go through processing with the Department of State.
Before they arrive, the refugees will go through background and medical checks.
“Once that processing is done and they get their travel documents to come to the United States, they enter with the status of refugee,” Scott told News 4.
From that point, she said the process of resettling has just started.
The refugees are expected to arrive in the next 6-9 months,
By the end of this year, Journey’s End expects Syrians to be their largest group of refugee clients below Burmese and Iraqi.