International Center able to continue resettling refugees

A Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency will be able to continue its work next year, despite previous questions about whether it would be affected by a national cut of resettlement centers.

“In Kentucky, we are very fortunate that all the agencies are remaining,” Becky Jordan, the state refugee coordinator with the Kentucky Office for Refugees, said Wednesday at the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green.

In a meeting with the International Center’s resettlement partners, Jordan said all three volunteer agencies that oversee refugee resettlement in Kentucky will continue operating in the state next year.

Previously, the U.S. State Department had been weighing how to reduce the country’s refugee resettlement network under a directive from President Donald Trump, Jordan said.

The national ceiling for refugee resettlement next fiscal year has been set at 30,000, which is down from this year’s cap of 45,000 refugees.

That move left the State Department with a decision about how to continue its relationships with the nine volunteer agencies that oversee local resettlement centers across the country.

Instead of cutting ties with any of the volunteer agencies, Jordan said the department decided to reduce the number of centers offered in bigger cities. Bowling Green’s agency falls under the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

However, the International Center of Kentucky continues to face uncertainty about its future as refugee arrivals dwindle. In the past quarter, the center has resettled 43 refugees – an amount it used to see arrive in one month’s time.

“It’s difficult for us to plan. It is difficult for us to say anything with certainty because we don’t know,” said Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center of Kentucky.

While the Trump administration set the resettlement ceiling at 45,000 this fiscal year, Jordan said the country hasn’t come anywhere close to reaching that amount.

“I believe the actual number of refugees the U.S. resettled in 2018 was 22,490,” she said.

As of September, the International Center had resettled 305 refugees in Bowling Green. Many of the refugees resettled this year have been from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is the southernmost country in central Africa.

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