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Vermont Program Preparing For Syrian Refugees

Muhammed Muheisen
Syrian refugees make their way on a railway track after crossing the border between Serbia and Hungary on Monday, Sept. 14.

Refugee assistance organizations, including one in Vermont, are responding to President Obama’s call to bring an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S.

Amila Merdzanovic, the director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, says given the scope of the refugee crisis, she’s disappointed in the president’s proposal.

“We are asking for 100,000 refugees. That would be more appropriate. Ten thousand is just a drop in a huge sea,” says Merdzanovic.

Whatever the number, Merdzanovic says plans are being made by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to assist them.

The committee is the private non-profit organization that includes the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Typically the organization resettles 300 to 350 refugees in Vermont every year. About 70,000 refugees come to the U.S. annually.

Merdzanovic says it’s too early to tell how many Syrians might arrive in the state, but already she’s receiving offers of assistance.

“On a daily basis, I’ve been getting calls from Vermonters offering not only monetary help, but offering to open their homes and open their hearts,”she says.

Merdzanovic says many factors go into determining where people are resettled, including whether there’s an existing community to help refugees transition to a new life, as well as the  availability of jobs and services.

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