How many refugees live in Syracuse?

While the numbers are hard to determine, most estimates say at least 14,000, mainly living in Syracuse’s Northside. Syracuse typically sees over 700 refugees arrive a year.

Why are there so many refugees in Syracuse?

This commonly asked question is best answered with some context. When a refugee flees their home country to another country for refuge, they are often times an illegal alien in this new place. The UNHCR (United Nation’s work with refugees) typically comes into the refuge nation and sets up what is commonly referred to as a refugee camp. As the conflict or situation in their home country goes on, there are times when it seems clear that the refugee will not be able to re-enter their home country, at least in a reasonable time. Due to the lack of opportunity that exists in the camps and/or hope for a better life, many families and individuals apply for resettlement. (For more information, click on this link to the blog on Seeking Asylum.)

The president of the United States signs a memorandum each year stating the maximum number of refugees our nation will take in. A number of agencies and parties are involved in the exchange between the refugee in the refuge nation and their arrival in the United States, their resettlement nation. However, at the very end of the process the national agencies involved in refugee resettlement delegate the various incoming cases of families and individuals to their partners spread out all over the United States in cities like Syracuse. Syracuse has three of those national agencies represented in the two local resettlement agencies, Northside CYO – Catholic Charities and Interfaith Works – Center for New Americans.

What services are offered to the refugees upon their arrival?

For the first eight months, refugee arrivals are given housing, food and small stipend to live simply (same as our public assistance for US citizens) with no questions asked. After eight months, in New York State, they are required to either be employed or enroll in the JOBS Plus program, a rigorous program seeking to place them in employment.

Most refugees arrive with little to no English and a large need for cultural adaption. They are provided with a case worker for at least the first 90 days to help them with the initial navigation. There are a number of English schools that are attended by the adults including the Refugee Assistance Program otherwise known as “Bob’s School.” Any child that arrives under 18 will be placed in the public education system up to age 21. Within the Refugee Assistance Program, the largest agency serving them after the initial three months, there is assistance available for finding employment as well.

What are the greatest needs of the refugees in Syracuse?

Due to the natural barriers that come due to adjusting to a foreign land and the struggles of living on a low income, there are a number of ways we can come alongside to empower our new neighbors. At Hopeprint, we believe that the greatest need is relationships. Out of real relationships we are able to serve them, teach English in conversation and value them for the incredible people that they are. As far as practical needs, someone helping them to speak English is the largest need of almost every incoming man, woman and child – it’s the key to almost everything else.

About the Author