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Yorkers set to welcome refugees

Julia Scheib
505-5439/@JuliaDispatch
Joan Maruskin

Joan Maruskin


The agency's Global Trend Report: World at War stated that at the end of last year, 59.5 million people had been forcibly displaced, as compared to 37.5 million 10 years ago. One in 122 people in the world is a refugee, internally displaced (forced to leave their home but still in their home country) or seeking asylum, and more than half the world's refugees are children.A report released last June by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states there are more people in the world displaced by conflict than there have ever been — and that because of the persistence and proliferation of conflicts worldwide, the increase will continue.

The report stated that the conflict in Syria is the biggest driver of displacement worldwide. A report done by the New York Times in September shows how massive numbers of Syrians are dying in the conflict.

In September, President Obama pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees within the next year. Since then, the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have spurred a political debate over whether it's safe to accept people fleeing the battered country.

Locally: Some Yorkers are organizing in the anticipation that refugees will be resettled here in 2016.

Joan Maruskin, a member of Lancaster-based organization Church World Service's advisory board, said the community can expect the first refugees in January.

They could be Syrian, she said, but CWS has no way of predicting where they will have come from. "Church World Service has been getting a lot of Congolese refugees," she said.

Local people interested in helping attended a meeting on Oct. 29 and then another on Nov. 12, at which representatives of three churches in the area started to form a community welcoming team.

There will be another meeting Wednesday night, at which interested volunteers can more specifically plan what each person will do in the effort to welcome refugees to York.

Frustration: A few weeks ago, Maruskin expressed her incredulity at what she sees as ignorance regarding the process by which refugees come into this country.

"All these people who are saying refugees are not being vetted — no one is challenging this," she said.

She noted that the U.S. has intense and thorough security measures and said that it takes refugees one to three years to be accepted for resettlement in this country.

An informative graphic at whitehouse.gov illustrates the series of exams, interviews and assessments refugees must go through before being permitted to enter the U.S.

A few steps in the dozens required include biometric exams that include iris scans and fingerprint checks, as well as security checks that are repeated throughout the process and updated to be consistent with the latest terrorist databases. The exams and checks are conducted by agencies like the National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday night in the community room at George Street Commons, 231 S. George St., York. Anyone interested in helping is welcome to go, even if they haven't attended previous meetings.

"The goal of the meeting will be to form a team that covers all areas needed to successfully resettle and befriend refugees," Maruskin said in an email.

To find out how you can help refugees or connect with others who want to help, contact Joan Maruskin at (443) 775-1609 or jmmaruskin@gmail.com, or go to cwsglobal.org.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.