WASHINGTON (April 30, 1999) -- U.S. Catholic Conference/Migration and Refugee Services, the largest private refugee resettlement agency in the United States, will be prepared for the arrival of 20,000 Kosovar refugees in coming weeks, according to the chairman of the Bishops' Migration Committee.
"The Catholic resettlement network is preparing now to welcome and assist the Kosovars," said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark. "Our objective, as with all the refugees we resettle, will be to acclimate them to the United States and to help them become self-sufficient."
Over the last 25 years, USCC/MRS has resettled nearly one million refugees from all over the world in partnership with its network of more than 100 diocesan resettlement programs. With its recent experience helping to resettle nearly 30,000 refugees from war-torn Bosnia, USCC/MRS will be well prepared to welcome a significant portion of the 20,000 Kosovars to be relocated in the United States.
"In the faces of the Kosovars, I see the same look of pain and suffering that I have seen on the faces of the Cuban rafters, the Vietnamese boat people, the orphaned Sudanese boys, the Rwandans fleeing mass genocide, and so many others who have been forced to leave their countries," said Bishop DiMarzio. "Our challenge with the Kosovars, as with all the refugees we resettle, is to help them rebuild their lives."
According to Mark Franken, Executive Director of USCC/MRS, the agency helps to rebuild refugees' lives by arranging their travel to the United States, meeting them upon arrival, arranging for housing, providing food, clothes, and basic necessities, teaching them English, finding employment, and getting medical care and mental health services, among others. The U.S. Department of State provides some initial funding for refugee resettlement, but private contributions and community support are essential to meet the refugees' needs, he said.
Based on the traumatic experiences of the Kosovars and the quick pace of their arrival -- anticipated at 400 a day -- intensive efforts and resources will be necessary to assist them upon their arrival in the United States. "We are trying to identify resources now to help Kosovars who may be arriving in need of medical attention," Bishop DiMarzio said. "Volunteers, temporary housing, and donations are always needed."
The 110 diocesan refugee resettlement programs of the USCC/MRS network are typically part of local Catholic Charities agencies, the largest private provider of human services in the United States. While the Catholic resettlement network serves all refugees, regardless of religion, its work is based on the Catholic mission and scriptural mandate to serve the most vulnerable and needy.
To assist the public learn more about the Kosovar refugee crisis, USCC/MRS has established an information line at 202-541-3355. Callers can select from seven options, including how to sponsor a Kosovar refugee, how to offer financial assistance, and what is the Church's perspective on the crisis. Information is also available on the USCC Web site at www.nccbuscc.org/sdwp/kosovo.