Wednesday, December 29, 2004

City halts flow of refugees

Manchester tries to do something about its refugee problem:

A surge in refugees coming into Manchester last summer so overwhelmed the city's capacity that a three-month moratorium was placed on most new arrivals, government officials said in recent interviews.

The moratorium went into effect Sept. 28 and will continue through the end of the year. Meanwhile, the state is conducting a review of how future resettlement should occur in New Hampshire, officials said.

The moratorium was largely triggered by the strain an influx of mostly African refugees placed on the public health system. Lead poisoning was detected in 34 children — four of whom were hospitalized, city and state health officials said.

Recently, Manchester has been inundated with refugees:

The city health department reports 364 new refugees resettled in Manchester during the fiscal year that ended June 30, an 85 percent increase over the previous year, when 198 arrived.

Of the 364 who came in fiscal 2004, 193 arrived between the months of June and August. Another 59 followed in September. After the moratorium went into effect Sept. 28, resettlements dropped off to 26 in October, according to the health department report.

The 364 refugees came from 18 countries and speak about 20 languages, the report said. African refugees comprised 88 percent of the new arrivals, with most coming from Somalia, Liberia and Sudan.

The 96 refugees who came in June alone was a record high for the city, the health department report said. The record year for refugee resettlement in Manchester was fiscal 2000, when 425 arrived.

Moreover, while Manchester has about 9 percent of the state's total population, it accommodated 83 percent of the total refugees who resettled in New Hampshire in fiscal 2004, the health report said.

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