First State faith leaders and other community groups gathered Friday morning to learn more about a wave of Syrian refugees coming to Delaware as early as the end of the year.
The resettlement process for around 50-60 Syrian individuals and refugees from other countries is slated to begin in December or January.
Delaware’s Jewish Family Services agency is teaming up with HIAS – one of only nine organizations working with the U.S. State Department and the refugee resettlement program charged with placing refugees in the United States and abroad.
HIAS Senior Director of Communications Bill Swersey says this is the first time Syrian refugees are being resettled in Delaware, and adds the list of immediate needs for them is long.
“The first couple of months they’re in the United States all of the initial things you could imagine such as getting their kids registered in school, getting a driver's license, getting a Social Security card, applying for any benefits for which they may be eligible," Swersey said.
And Jones Williams - Manager for First State Jewish Family Services' Refugee Program - says they’re seeking partner agencies to join them in helping refugees navigate those issues and others.
“When they come, we’ll be able to go to the airport to receive them, find housing for them, and help them with preliminarily things like household materials and other things, Williams said.
Several synagogues, non-profits and the Islamic Community of Delaware have already signed on to help. Delaware and Wyoming were the only two states not to have settled any Syrian refugees during the 2016 Fiscal year that ended Sept. 30th.
HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield says while the Syrian crisis is just one part of a larger refugee issue, it’s the biggest part – with over 20% of the world’s refugees currently coming from Syria.
He attended last month’s first ever United Nations summit on refugees and migrants where the Obama administration announced a goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in FY2017 - the largest number in over 20 years.
In FY16, the US resettled 85,000 up from 70,000 in FY15.
“So that’s a pretty significant increase," Hetfield said. "It’s still far fewer than the United States should be resettling given the need and given what we’ve done in the more distant past in the 1980s in particular but it will definitely involve all of the agencies including HIAS resettling more refugees.”
Around 40,000 of that 110,000 will come from the Near East and South Asia regions including Syria.