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International Center of Kentucky continues to see new refugees arriving in Warren County, including large number of Cubans

Lisa Autry
WKU Public Radio

The International Center of Kentucky has helped resettle 176 refugees in Warren County since the beginning of the year. The Bowling Green-based organization helps new arrivals to the country who have often fled their native countries due to political or religious persecution. The agency works to secure long-term housing, employment, and education for refugees in Bowling Green.

Since the beginning of the year, the agency has seen refugees arrive in Warren County from Afghanistan, Burma, and The Republic of the Congo. The new arrivals include men, women, children, and families.

One of the biggest obstacles for immigrants is learning the language to find steady employment or enroll in education programs in their community. According to the International Center, 58 of the newly arrived refugees are school-aged children. The agency has helped those individuals enroll in the local school system. They've also helped 83 individuals to find employment at 13 different businesses within Warren County.

The agency expects to receive more refugees seeking to resettle in Kentucky throughout the year and is prepared to help those individuals.

Albert Mbanfu, director of the International Center, said he doesn't see the arrival of refugees slowing down anytime soon.

“Our pipeline is pretty full, and when I say pipeline I mean refugees who have already been assigned to Bowling Green while they are still overseas,” Mbanfu said. “We don’t know when they will travel but they are already assigned to Bowling Green, so we’ll try to manage the numbers to make sure we are not overwhelmed.”

According to Mbanfu, Warren County has seen the highest influx of Cuban immigrants in over ten years. Over 150 Cuban refugees have arrived since October to begin a new life in Warren County.

A federal program that was announced in January would allow groups of five or more individuals to sponsor a refugee and is expected to help ease the stress on local agencies. That program will not begin until June and it’s unclear if there will be interest from potential sponsors in Warren County.

According to Mbanfu, it's still too early to determine if the federal program will greatly impact the work the International Center is doing in Warren County.

“We cannot say if we will see an uptick in refugee arrivals in Kentucky or not, Mbanfu said. “It will all depend on the individuals who want to sponsor.”

The International Center also works with resettlement agencies in Lexington, Louisville, and Owensboro to provide services and resources to help the international community in the Commonwealth.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at
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