Nine refugee families settling in Reno |

Nine refugee families settling in Reno

by Tisa Coons
Special to The R-C

Nine refugee families are expected to be settled in Western Nevada, with seven of those from Syria, according to the board liaison to the Northern Nevada International Center.

Steven Mulvenon spoke to about 40 people about the resettlement of refugees in Nevada at the monthly Douglas County Democratic Women’s luncheon meeting on Monday at Carson Valley Inn, detailing the current efforts undertaken by his organization in resettling refugees in Reno.

There are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, out of which 21.3 million are officially declared as refugees more than half of the 21.3 million are under 18 years of age.

According to Mulvenon, 6 percent of the refugees are resettled in the Americas including North and South Americas.

The majority of refugees worldwide, 53 percent, come from three countries – Somalia (1.1 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Syria (4.9 million).

Mulvenon cited the situation of refugees as the “significant, cultural, geopolitical, moral and ethical issue of our time.”

Mulvenon’s organization, a nonprofit, although affiliated with the University of Nevada, Reno, is not paid by the university and instead relies on public fundraising.

They work with state agencies in accepting appropriate refugees into Reno. Statistically, 75-80 percent of refugees become self-sufficient within six months of living in the United States.

The group is expecting two more families from Syria. Most of these refugees were professionals in their own countries, middle-income families, with some education.

Mulvenon stated that on paper their goal is to have 75-100 refugees in total, however, that number hinges upon his organization’s “capacity to serve them well.”

Regarding refugees being relocated to Minden or Gardnerville, he said logistically it makes more sense to have refugees centered in Reno, though the prospect is “not ruled out but unlikely.”

He noted that they tend to accept refugees who require medical treatment, which can be provided in Reno. He gave an example of a recent refugee family from Syria, where the father was injured in a bomb blast at a market in Aleppo, and then later the hospital where he was being treated was bombed, too.

As of now, that father has shrapnel in his mouth and jaw, and finds it difficult to eat easily.

Mulvenon emphasized how support from the community is critically important in assuring refugees are able to assimilate and build new lives in this country.

He cited examples of how faith-based organizations have stepped up, by either through financial contributions or adopting families. For example, Temple Sinai in Reno has adopted a Muslim refugee family from Syria. Often times, these faith-base organizations tend to furnish refugees homes as well.

Moreover, large companies like Fedex, Costo, and Tesla have either assisted or discussed helping in the resettlement efforts, according to Mulvenon.

The overall response from communities in Reno has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

He pointed out that they have a growing list of 400 people already committed in assisting them with their refugee relocation program.

Center Board Member and Foothill resident Jill Derby praised how people in Reno have come together to help them.

She said it is “very touching to see how the Reno community, particularly faith-based organizations, have opened their hearts to these refugee families who have lost their homes and everything”.

In quelling people’s fear about refugees relocating into Nevada, she said it is easy to generate fear due to assumed differences, but when you meet these refugees you realize how similar they are to us.

Mulvenon said there is an extensive and rigorous vetting process potential refugees undergo in order to be eligible to resettle in the United States.

This 14-step process includes being vetted by multiple agencies such as the FBI, CIA, USCIS, having their biometrics taken, and being interviewed multiple times. A grueling process that usually takes 18-24 months.

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