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August 05. 2014 10:52PM

Manchester Mayor Gatsas protests to refugee resettlement group: What about our own kids?

MANCHESTER — The city’s primary refugee resettlement organization has stated that the region is suited for “unaccompanied minors” in its application to settle refugees over the next year.

The statement by International Institute of New England was brought to light by Mayor Ted Gatsas, who has faulted the group in the past for settling refugees in Manchester without providing sufficient resources to support them.

In a letter to Barbara Seebart, the state refugee coordinator, Gatsas said he was “particularly troubled” by the mention of “unaccompanied minors” in IINE’s application to settle up to 260 more refugees in the city over the 2015 federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“After reviewing previous abstracts, this language is new to this section, and the city of Manchester and the Manchester School District are not prepared to resettle unaccompanied minors,” he wrote.

In its abstract to be reviewed by the U.S. State Department, which oversees refugee settlement around the country, IINE points to several aspects of the Manchester area that make it favorable for continued refugee resettlement, such as a low unemployment rate.

In a section outlining the suitability of the area for “refugees with special needs,” the application notes that “unaccompanied minors and attached minors are supported in their transition to schools and linked to community resources by the School Impact Team.”

Gatsas further noted that the IINE application states that most of the new refugees will come from Syria.

The issue came up at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, when Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long objected to an earlier letter Gatsas wrote to state public safety officials expressing concerns about the possibility that any of the minors would end up in Manchester.

Long said the letter sent the wrong message about Manchester.

“They’re coming to the United States as a million people have, as refugees,” he said. “In my opinion, I don’t think they’re illegal.”

Gatsas disagreed.

“These are not immigrants like I remember my grandfather sponsoring from Greece, where they had to have a job to come. We have 1,000 homeless in Manchester. If we’re going to help children from other countries, what are we going to do about the youth in this city?”

The number of children crossing the border without parents or guardians has more than doubled in the past two years, creating what President Barack Obama has described as an “urgent humanitarian situation.”

The President has asked Congress for an additional $1.4 billion and wants to create a taskforce to coordinate the federal response.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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