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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nashua to welcome 50 more refugees

NASHUA – In a city with a population approaching 90,000, resettling 50 new residents over several months would seem almost indiscernible in today’s mobile society.

But these 50 individuals are refugees, described by one advocate as “the neediest of the needy” of the world’s immigrants, people who are coming to Nashua as part of a national resettlement program, mainly because they’d likely face persecution if they tried to return to their homelands. ...

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NASHUA – In a city with a population approaching 90,000, resettling 50 new residents over several months would seem almost indiscernible in today’s mobile society.

But these 50 individuals are refugees, described by one advocate as “the neediest of the needy” of the world’s immigrants, people who are coming to Nashua as part of a national resettlement program, mainly because they’d likely face persecution if they tried to return to their homelands.

A public meeting held before Monday night’s Nashua City Democratic Party meeting drew about 40 residents, some of whom asked questions but mostly listened to two resettlement experts give background and plans for Nashua’s new residents.

Most will come from Iraq, said Amy Marchildon, director of Lutheran Social Services for New Americans, and Carolyn Benedict-Drew, executive director of the International Institute of New England, another regional refugee resettlement group whose members are hosting discussions and answering questions ahead of the coming resettlement.

Last week, personal stories of several refugees who have successfully settled in New Hampshire cities, including Nashua, were part of a similar, larger meeting in Concord.

Nashua learned it would be getting 50 refugees – individuals, not families, Marchildon and Drew emphasized – in March. The larger group – Nashua welcomed only about 70 refugees from 2002-09, officials said – is due in part to the moratorium on new refugees Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas requested two years ago.

Marchildon said most of the new arrivals are from Iraq, where two different groups – those banished to refugee camps, unable to return home, and those who “helped us when we were (at war) in Iraq,” she said – will be represented.

“We can all have feelings about Iraq, but many of these are people who helped us in so many ways,” Marchildon told the group.

Benedict-Drew broached a common claim made against immigrants and refugees. “People say, ‘oh, they’re taking our jobs,’ ” she said. “But that’s not true. None of these refugees is taking anyone’s job.

“What they are doing are getting their own jobs.”

In all, 128 refugees have been resettled in Nashua in 11 years, including the 41 in 2012. It’s far fewer than in both Manchester and Concord, where 2,577 and 1,349, respectively, were resettled over the last decade.

Even Laconia, with just under 300, more than doubled Nashua’s intake of refugees over that period.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).