War refugees at Zakany Railway Station

Refugees in Raleigh

In Buzz, February 2016 by Mandy HowardLeave a Comment

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So where do we, Raleighites, stand? 

According to Scott Phillips, Ph.D., field office director for the North Carolina office of the United States Committee For Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI NC), we’re actually one of the most welcoming places in the country.


North Carolina ranks in the top 10 states with relocated refugees in America, which makes Phillips proud.

“I’m a native North Carolinian. We have always been a state known for being hospitable. It makes me happy we are standing by that; we are a welcoming place, and we are compassionate,” says Phillips.

Recent headlines and calls to suspend refugee placement has led to an earnest desire to understand this complex issue.

“I’ve been able to have more conversations about refugees and explain the refugee process; it’s been a great time for education,” Phillips said.

Phillips said Raleigh’s altruistic and hospitable nature is emerging.

“People contact us to say, ‘We want to make sure that you understand that we know you are doing important work,’” he said.

Often refugees leave their homes only with what they can carry. Some residents have stepped up efforts in recent months with increased giving through clothing and food drives.

For every negative phone call or reaction Phillips receives, he says there are at least 50 calls of encouragement and support.

Paris terrorist attacks.

“There were people standing on Fayetteville Street with signs that said, ‘Free Hugs 4 Refugees and Muslims.’”

Why close the doors?

Refugee settlement and acceptance is a matter controlled by the United Nations in conjunction with the federal government. After recent terror attacks and testimony by FBI Director James Comey that there will be difficulties in the screening process, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate introduced legislation that would suspend refugee settlement and give governors more power over who may resettle in their state.

President Obama promised to block any bill that would restrict Syrian refugees, and social media is flooded with strong reactions and opinions on all sides.

Graham H. Wilson, Press Secretary, Office of Governor Pat McCrory said:

“North Carolina has a proud tradition of providing a hand-up for those in need, including international refugees. North Carolina is home to more than 160,000 permanent legal immigrants who have settled in our state.

Each individual arriving here in a legal matter, following our laws in search of a better life, is a blessing to our state and a blessing to our country. However, the governor wants to make sure there are legitimate background checks done to see if there is any involvement with individuals with potential terrorist activities before they come to North Carolina. Right now he does not have confidence in the government doing that, especially in countries in which there is no embassy.”

By the Numbers

Over 4 million: Syrians who have fled a brutal civil war

20,000: Syrians sent to the United States by United Nations Refugee Agency

2,000: Syrian refugees accepted into the U.S.*

59: Syrian refugees located in N.C.*

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