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Bowling Green's Refugee Resettlement Agency Is Expecting An Influx Of New Arrivals

International Center of Kentucky

The Warren County based International Center of Kentucky is expecting an influx of refugees in the next few months. 

Resettlement programs have struggled to help refugees enter the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cuts to admissions made by the Trump administration.

Executive Director of the International Center, Albert Mbanfu, said during a community meeting Wednesday that the center has resettled 111 refugees so far during this federal fiscal year, and is expecting more. 

"June has been a very busy month for the international center, and I think it’s a busy month for all resettlement agencies across the country," Mbanfu said.

"For the very first time we have 66 arrivals in this quarter. It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time."

In the first quarter of the federal fiscal year from October to December, the center resettled eight refugees. In the second quarter, they were able to resettle 36 and in the third quarter the center resettled 67. 

Mbanfu believes the agency will have resettled a little more than 200 refugees by the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30. That’s more than they resettled in 2020, but less than half they brought into the country in 2019. In 2020, the resettlement agency resettled 151 refugees. In 2019, 459 refugees were able to resettle.

Although refugee resettlement agencies in Kentucky are expecting higher numbers in arrivals, compared to 2020, officials say the pandemic continues to make the process difficult. 

Maria Koerner, assistant director of the Kentucky Office for Refugees said the Biden administration wants to increase the refugee admission cap to 125,000 starting the next federal fiscal year in October. 

"That number is aspirational. There’s a lot of work to do to rebuild the infrastructure of the program and there are also still COVID concerns in other areas of the world where refugees are living now," Koerner explained.

"They are unable to do in person processing. That’s one of the things they can’t do in person because the COVID vaccine isn’t available worldwide as it is here."

The International Center of Kentucky said they’re struggling with vaccine hesitancy in some refugees that have resettled this year. The vast majority of the refugees resettling in the area are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. She transitioned to the station's All Things Considered Host in July of 2020. Watson is a 2017 graduate of Western Kentucky University and has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism. She also has her M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. Watson is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. In 2019, she won a Tennessee AP Broadcaster & Editors Award for her sports feature on Belmont University's smallest point guard. While at WKU Public Radio she won Best College Radio Reporter in 2016 from the Kentucky Ap Broadcasters Association for her work on post-apartheid South Africa. Watson was previously at Wisconsin Public Radio as thier 2nd Century Fellow where she did general assignment and feature reporting in Milwaukee.
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