Posted on April 17, 2007

Help Sought To Resettle African Refugees Here

Karina Gonzalez, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 16, 2007

Local resettlement coordinators are asking for community support as they prepare to welcome refugees from Tanzania.

“Chattanooga has been approved as a resettlement site for Burundians,” said Anne Curtis, coordinator and sponsorship developer for Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services.

As many as 9,000 refugees from Tanzania, known as the “1972 Burundians,” are being considered for resettlement in the United States. The refugees are known by the year of their initial exile from Burundi, located in the Great Lakes region of sub-Saharan Africa.


Since Bridge Refugees and Sponsorship Services opened in 1996, the agency has resettled nearly 600 refugees to the Chattanooga area from Bosnia, Vietnam, Cuba, Liberia and Sudan, among other countries. Ms. Curtis said the agency expects to be able to settle up to 70 refugees here this year, though only a dozen have arrived so far.

Deborah Stein, program manager for Episcopal Migration Ministries, a New York-based group that works to resettle refugees, said up to 3,000 Burundian refugees will be resettled to the United States by the end of September. And up to 5,000 refugees from Burundi are expected to resettle in the county during the 2008 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, she said.

“They will resettle all over the country,” Ms. Stein said.


She said this group of Burundian refugees will have special needs, as they have lived in isolated refugee camps since 1972.


Chattanooga resident Rose Monbo, a native of Monrovia, Liberia, said adjusting to an entirely different way of life in America is a challenge for refugees, and community support is essential in becoming a part of society here.

Even the weather is something to get used to, she said. “In Africa the climate is hot,” said the 42-year-old, who arrived here in July 2006 with her 10-year-old son. “I had my first experience of snow falling. (My son) likes the snow.”