News: CJ Exclusives

UPDATE: N.C. Has Accepted 59 Syrian Refugees

As many as 270 may be relocated in state

UPDATED, 3:50 p.m., November 16: From Jan. 1, 2014, through October 31, North Carolina has accepted 59 Syrian refugees, and as many as 270 others are expected to be relocated throughout the state, according to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office. The governor’s office updated the information Monday, three days after it responded to an open-records request from Carolina Journal seeking a tally on the number of refugees that have been relocated to North Carolina from the war-torn country. The goverrnor’s initial report of 44 Syrian refugees was provided hours before news arrived of a series of coordinated attacks by Islamist terrorists in Paris.

Meantime, Republican Govs. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Robert Bentley of Alabama announced Sunday they would suspend the admission of refugees from Syria, citing Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris.

The Syrians are among a total of 4,828 refugees from 36 countries transplanted in North Carolina from Jan. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015, according to a statement the Governor’s Office released in response to a public records request from Carolina Journal.

Of that number, 2,617 were male, and 2,211 were female. By age, 2,914 were 19- to 64-years old, 1,187 were between 5- and 18-years old, 631 were younger than 5, and 96 were 65 and older.

The data was disclosed Friday, the same day global outrage erupted over a wave of Islamist terrorism in Paris — with suspected links to at least one Syrian refugee — that (at press time) resulted in 129 fatalities and an additional 352 injured.

BBC News reported Sunday that official sources said a Syrian cell was behind the Paris bombings and mass shootings.

“It just so happens the United States is a target. But Paris was easier” to be the location for a terrorist attack, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

“The president talked the other morning about [the Islamic State] was contained. America learned within 24 hours, it’s not contained. It’s rampant everywhere in the world that they intend to carry out these horrific acts,” Burr said.

Burr added that he hoped French President Francois Hollande would seek a NATO coalition to “attack this horrific terrorist element before they have … the ability to carry out another coordinated attack.”

CJ asked the Governor’s Office if it had any security concerns about the Syrian refugees, given that ISIS has said it would make sure militant jihadists would be part of the Syrian refugee exodus.

“Prior to being given refugee status, an extensive security screening is conducted on each individual” by the U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and participation from multiple U.S. government security agencies, the Governor’s Office responded.

“Syrians relocated to North Carolina has been quite small (44),” a statement from the Governor’s Office said in response to the CJ records request.

“This is in part due to the small number admitted into the USA,” which was fewer than 2,000 in the federal fiscal year spanning Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015, the statement said.

“It is not anticipated that there will be a large increase in the number of arrivals in [North Carolina],” the statement said. “While an exact number is not known, less than 270 is anticipated.” That projection is based on a document from the White House setting a nationwide ceiling of 10,000 refugees from Syria as a country of origin.

Even so. Refugee Council USA, a coalition of global humanitarian aid groups helping displaced Syrians, wants the U.S. to accept at least 65,000 Syrian refugees, and some Democratic senators have urged President Obama to grant that request, calling 10,000 “an unacceptably low number.”

It is uncertain where the 44 Syrians have been relocated in North Carolina, according to the Governor’s Office.

“The N.C. State Refugee Office does not track ethnic groups by specific locality,” the statement said. However, overall refugee numbers going to a specific county are tracked. The statement did not account for how all refugees could be tabulated by locality without knowing the numbers for individual nationalities.

In the 2015 state fiscal year Guilford County received the most Office of Refugee Relocation newcomers with 624, followed by Mecklenburg with 593, and Wake with 448.

From Jan. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015, 1,287 refugees were relocated to Mecklenburg County; 1,277 to Guilford County; 936 to Wake County; and 504 to Durham County. Craven County received 301, New Hanover County 156, and Orange County 105. Another 262 were divided among 23 other counties.

Most of those refugees came from Burma, 1,562; Iraq, 603; Congo, 540; Bhutan, 491; Somalia, 436; Afghanistan, 248; Cuba, 215; Eritrea, 116; and Sudan, 107. Another 27 nations sent fewer than 100 refugees each, including 52 from Iran, and 31 from Ukraine.

The departments of State and Homeland Security, along with national voluntary agencies oversee refugee resettlement during their overseas processing and initial resettlement within the United States, the statement said.

“After the initial reception and placement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides funds to states … for employment services and supportive services such as case management, English Language and vocational instruction,” the statement said.

According to the Governor’s Office, local governments are apprised of refugees being resettled into their communities.

“Each quarter local resettlement agencies hold stakeholder meetings with all local officials, agencies, and county departments, [about] refugee anticipated arrivals, programs, and outlining their obligations and expectations,” the statement said.

“All funding for the N.C. Refugee Assistance Programs is 100 percent federal,” according to the Governor’s Office. Recipients must be admitted into the United States legally, or approved by the Department of Homeland Security after inspection upon arrival into the U.S.

Undocumented individuals are not eligible to receive services.

The primary programs and benefits administered by North Carolina for refugees and other Office of Refugee Resettlement eligible populations “is related to time-limited cash assistance, medical assistance, and refugee specific social services,” according to the Governor’s Office.

Those program benefits include Refugee Cash Assistance for a maximum of eight months from the date of arrival, and Refugee Medical Assistance for a total of eight months. There also are refugee specific Social Services to help with employment, English language learning, and other efforts.

The average monthly costs in state fiscal year 2014-15 were $78,000 for the Refugee Cash Assistance program, $175,341 for Refugee Medical Assistance and medical health screening, and $169,469 for Social Services programs. That totals $5.1 million for the year.

The projected costs are expected to be about the same in the state’s current budget year, according to the Governor’s Office.

Dan E. Way (@danway_carolina) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.