Fewer new refugees in mid-Missouri

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COLUMBIA – Fewer numbers of new refugees are settling in mid-Missouri directly after leaving their home countries. But the City of Refuge said it instead is seeing high numbers of refugees relocate to Columbia after hearing about the help the city offers.

City of Refuge Executive Director Barry Stoll said although Missouri has seen lower numbers of new refugees just arriving in the country. He says the city still sees high numbers of refugees moving to Columbia after high recommendation through word-of-mouth. 

“There are more and more refugees moving to Columbia because they hear the help that's available," Stoll said. "There are folks here to help them."

The City of Refuge helps refugees find jobs, apply for college, go to the doctor, set up cell phone plans and open bank accounts. Volunteers help fill basic needs, teach English and offer driving lessons. 

Stoll said the easiest way to help refugees is through talking with them. 

"I always try to recommend just befriending them. Get to know them, find out how they're doing and what needs they have," Stoll said. 

The majority of refugees in Columbia immigrate from African countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea. The city has also seen many refugees from the Middle Eastern countries of Syria and Iraq. 

Comparing 2016 to 2017, Stoll said the City of Refuge saw about 70 fewer new refugees this year. Stoll said he believes this has happened from a combination of changes in the U.S.

"The political atmosphere has definitely changed," Stoll said. "The bans, environment of the whole immigration has changed dramatically in the last couple of years."

Stoll said he hopes the country opens its doors and the trend reverses because immigrants need to have a place to go.

"A place to land, to succeed, to thrive and America is a wonderful place for that to happen," Stoll said.

Columbia offers many services to refugees which is why Stoll believes many relocate to the city after hearing about the benefits. 

"Appreciate Columbia and the friendliness that's here. The services that are offered, the willingness to help, the willingness to care for the refugees," Stoll said. "I am really proud of Columbia how they do that."

Visit the City of Refuge website if you are interested in volunteering or donating clothing and household items.