COLUMBUS (WSYX/WTTE) — An agency which helps resettle refugees in Central Ohio will be closing its doors in the summer, a direct result of the president’s executive order limiting refugees from entering the United States. World Relief Columbus said it will close in July and will stop accepting refugees after this week.
Kay Lipovsky, director of the agency, said the president’s order limits refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 this fiscal year, and can not be undone or blocked by courts. She said her agency has resettled more than 15,000 refugees in the agency’s five years of existence. Lipovsky is saddened and angered by the order. She said she believes in national security, but it shouldn’t come on the backs of those trying to flee dangerous areas of the world.
“It does not have to happen at the exclusion of having people come to this country that are fleeing terrorism and that are fleeing persecution themselves,” Lipovsky said.
Mustafa Al Buzayd is a case worker for the agency and is a refugee himself, having fled his native Iraq in 2011. It took five years for him to be allowed into the US. Now he helps refugees just like him, who have come to the country with virtually nothing.
“It’s really amazing,” he said. “It’s a privilege.”
The group sent out a letter to staff and volunteers Wednesday morning announcing the decision. World Relief said funding is tied to the arrival of refugees in the United States, and because of the “drastic reduction of refugee arrivals” and changes from the new administration, they had to make what they call a painful, but necessary decision.
The letter did not say where the other four offices closing are located.
In a letter sent to supporters and supporting churches, World Relief’s President Scott Arbeiter and CEO Tim Breene said they currently have a network that can serve about 11,000 refugees. But under the changes from the new administration, they anticipate the number of refugees they will be assigned to work with will drop to 5,000-7,000 a year.
They also say all of the eight other refugee resettlement agencies working in the US are making changes as they look at the impact of the President’s executive order.
The group praised the Columbus staff and their work, saying the decision had nothing to do with them. “We pray the city will continue to be a place of welcome, and this decision is in no way a reflection on the reception refugees and World Relief have received in Columbus,” Arbeiter and Breene wrote.
The Columbus office will be closing in July and say they are taking the time to make sure refugee families, agencies, churches, and volunteers are cared for and have the information they need.