From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Churches will help resettle more African refugees

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 17 Apr 2000 14:20:55

April 17, 2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

By United Methodist News Service

An increase in the number of African refugees being admitted into the United
States means that more churches are needed to sponsor their resettlement, a
United Methodist immigrant specialist says.

Lilia Fernandez, an executive with the United Methodist Committee on Relief
(UMCOR), attributes the fact that up to 18,000 refugees from Africa will be
admitted in 2000 to the advocacy efforts of church and refugee

"It's a victory, considering the journey," she said. The limit on African
refugees was 2,000 annually for years before eventually climbing to 7,000
and then 12,000 in 1999, she explained.

But the increase also means more work in placing the refugees once they
arrive in the United States, according to Fernandez, who is chairwoman of
the committee on African resettlement for Church World Service (CWS), the
relief agency of the National Council of Churches.

The United Nations defines a refugee as a person who is living outside his
or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution. Because of
conflicts in various parts of Africa, an estimated 13 million people are
living there as refugees, displaced people within their own countries or
recent returnees to those countries.

CWS, with its participating denominations, is one of the voluntary agencies
assisting refugees through the U.S. Resettlement Program. Through the local
affiliate offices of its Immigration and Refugee Program, CWS involves local
congregations in ministry to the refugees.

Sponsoring congregations are asked to provide for the initial material needs
of the refugees and serve as friends and advocates as the family works
toward self-sufficiency. The refugees become eligible for permanent
residence one year after they arrive in the United States.

Immigrants, refugees and their children add an estimated $10 billion to the
U.S. economy each year, according to CWS. Within 20 years after arrival, 60
percent of all refugees own their own homes.

While placements can occur in any part of the United States, Fernandez noted
that some of the refugees have relatives already in the United States and
must be resettled where those family members live.

In addition to church sponsorship, individuals can assist with resettlement
by supporting a church in their area that already is sponsoring a family.

A new video about hosting families for resettlement, "A Call to Care:
Welcoming African Refugees," will be available at the end of May, Fernandez
said. It can be ordered through Ecufilm for $19.95 by calling (800)

 More information is available by calling the UMCOR refugee office at (212)
870-3806 or sending an e-mail to Fernandez at

# # #

United Methodist News Service
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