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Group considers bringing refugees to Charleston

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Chris Dorst  Ellen Allen, executive director of Covenant House, Annette Zavareei, a local advocate for refugees, and Islamic Association of West Virginia Vice President Sue Barazi tell employees with Episcopal Migration Ministries that they believe Charleston is an ideal place to resettle Syrian refugees.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Chris Dorst
Ellen Allen, executive director of Covenant House, Annette Zavareei, a local advocate for refugees, and Islamic Association of West Virginia Vice President Sue Barazi tell employees with Episcopal Migration Ministries that they believe Charleston is an ideal place to resettle Syrian refugees.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Charleston’s population continues to decline, a refugee resettlement service is considering opening an agency in the city that would assist hundreds of refugees in moving to the area.

Episcopal Migration Ministries, a refugee-resettlement agency, sent employees to Charleston to learn more about the city this week.

The West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry, a group that started to create greater understanding of the plight of Syrian refugees, is working to turn Charleston into one of the Episcopal Migration Ministry’s “resettlement communities.” The ministry has 30 of those communities in cities throughout the United States.

The agencies work with local organizations in each city to assist refugees with translation, food, clothing, housing, education, mental health support, medical services, job training and community orientation.

Anti-Muslim sentiment is rampant throughout the country. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president, has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Many have called for preventing Syrian refugees, fleeing the carnage of civil war in their country, from entering the country. A West Virginia lawmaker even started a petition to ban them from West Virginia.

However, a group of Charlestonians sat in a meeting room at St. John’s Episcopal Church Thursday afternoon and took turns trying to convince Jeffrey Hawks and Allison Duvall, both from Episcopal Migration Ministries, that Charleston would be an ideal place for refugees from Syria and other places to live. (The national Episcopal group works with refugees from all around the world, including Africa, South American and Asia.) Some spoke of how welcoming Charleston has been to them, including Nahla Nimeh-Lewis, who is from Syria.

“This is an ideal place to bring and settle people,” she said, “because I’m one of them…

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