OGDEN — The first three families expected as part of a new wave of international refugees and Afghan evacuees to Weber County have resettled here.
They are part of a larger contingent of refugees and Afghans arriving in Utah and the rest of the United States throughout the year. The two refugee families, from Honduras and South Sudan, are the first to be resettled in Weber County since the arrival of a group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa in 2016, according to Aden Batar. He is director of migration and refugee services at Utah Catholic Community Services, one of two agencies assisting with resettlement efforts in Utah.
“We’re doing all the basics right now,” Batar said. That is, CCS representatives and volunteers are assisting newcomers as they adjust to the area, helping enroll children among the contingent in school, helping them navigate American bureaucracy, and helping them deal with the customs of a New country.
The Afghan family, which includes a US citizen of Afghan descent, is part of the contingent that fled Afghanistan following the US military departure from the country last September. Newly arrived refugees are part of the wave coming into the nation from refugee camps around the world due to the expansion of the US refugee program under President Joe Biden.
A total of 917 Afghans have arrived in Utah since the US pullout, according to Asha Parekh, who heads the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Office of Refugee Services, which is overseeing the efforts. On top of that, a An additional 160 refugees have been resettled here, he said, from the Congo, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Iraq.
“Largely they are settling in the Salt Lake Valley to be closer to resources and support, and about 19 are in Logan. A small number are also in Ogden,” Parekh said.
Utah will receive about 1,200 refugees in total through 2022 as part of the expansion of the US refugee program, according to Parekh. Between Afghans and refugees, the Ogden area will host about 15 families, Batar said.
“As always, it is a difficult adjustment to start living in a new place, where refugees are often unfamiliar with the language, customs, culture and way of life. But they are adapting over time and are truly grateful to have a place to call home, where they are so generously welcomed,” Parekh said.
Jennifer Gnagey has assisted CCS with resettlement efforts in Weber County. Such initiatives are important as a way to help those most in need, she said.
“Refugees are effectively people without a country. They cannot return to their home county because they will face persecution or other risks to their livelihood,” she said. As a world leader, the United States, among other countries, has a responsibility to “give these people a place to call home.”
Batar did not have details of the Honduran and South Sudanese families in Weber County. However, many flee Honduras due to gang violence in the Central American nation.
South Sudan achieved independence in 2011 but subsequently descended into a civil war that killed 400,000 people, according to Reuters. Despite a peace agreement, political uncertainty persists in the African nation.