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Groups from around state attend summit in Parma to prepare for possibility of Ukrainian refugees

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Posted at 8:20 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 19:04:43-04

PARMA, Ohio — They do not know when nor do they know how many, but state leaders, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, are anticipating and planning for an influx of refugees to be resettled in the Buckeye State after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Gov. DeWine joined officials from a myriad of different non-profits to continue laying the groundwork needed to get ready for the possible arrival of Ukrainian refugees. The Ohio Summit on Ukrainian Refugees also provided the opportunity for the state to declare unequivocally that it will welcome people that had to flee war-torn Ukraine.

“Let me make it very clear to everyone. Ohio welcomes and will welcome any refugees that come from Ukraine,” Gov. DeWine said, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd of several dozen attendees. “We don’t know how many refugees are coming here or if we will have refugees, but it seemed like we needed to get ready.”

The purpose of the summit was to provide information and answer questions from organizations that may be called upon to asisst with the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees. Organizations included resettlement agencies, faith-based organizations, charities and other groups that are interested in providing assistance.

Although the federal government is largely responsible with the initial processing of refugees, the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Service’s Refugee Services Program works with local resettlement agencies to determine the capacity of a given area to handle an influx of refugees. In addition to the initial processing and screening of refugees, the federal government provides funding to states, which is then administered by agencies on the local level.

ODJFS also oversees programs designed to help refugees assimilate into American life as well as achieve economic self-sufficiency.

“We resettle refugees in Ohio all the time. This is not anything new. This war is new and the horrible tragedy is new but opening our hearts to refugees is something that we do,” DeWine said.

Marta Kelleher, the president of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio, took part in a panel discussion at the summit. She recently toured a refugee camp near the Poland-Ukraine border.

“The people were at work one day. They went to bed. Their cities or villages were bombed and now they are fleeing the next day with a bag in one hand and a child in the other,” Kelleher said.

According to the Governor’s office, more than 500 Ukrainians have resettled in Ohio since 2018, with the majority resettling in Northeast Ohio.

RELATED: Gov. DeWine to host summit to prepare for Ukrainian refugees coming to Ohio

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