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Gov. Mike DeWine: 'Ohio will welcome any refugees who come from Ukraine'

DeWine opened the Ohio Summit on Ukrainian Refugees at St. Vladimir Grand Hall in Parma. The state could resettle families in the coming weeks or months.

PARMA, Ohio — Calling it a state built by immigrants, Governor Mike DeWine made it clear: “Ohio welcomes and will welcome any refugees who come from Ukraine,” he said at St. Vladimir’s in Parma Thursday afternoon.

Resettlement agencies, non-profits and faith-based groups connected in the hall to plan at the Ohio Summit on Ukrainian Refugees. While there's no word yet from the federal government, who will make the call, it's likely Ohio and Northeast Ohio could resettle families in the coming weeks or months.

“As a state, we're simply trying to get ready, and not just us get ready, but frankly different groups who want to be helpful and inform them of how this normally does work,” said Gov. DeWine.

Marta Kelleher, President of the United Ukrainian Organization of Ohio, just returned from the Polish border. She shared her experience in one of the panels. “What we witnessed were generations of Ukrainians who are fleeing,” she told more than 100 attendees.

She says, most are staying close to their homeland, and their husbands, now, with hopes to return to Ukraine. Many don’t know when or if that’s possible. “Ohio, and the area here in Northeast Ohio, is equipped to be able to bring in the refugees and be able to settle them in an area that is safe for them where they do understand the culture,” she said.

Bakht Zaman Moqbel arrived in Cleveland in August, a refugee from Afghanistan who got his family out a week before Kabul fell to Taliban control.

“Everyone over here is trying to help us. We're very much lucky that we're in Cleveland,” said Moqbel, who worked with the resettlement agency US Together. “They help us in getting all the documents, green card, Medicaid, everything.”

They also helped them find temporary, then permanent housing. They’ve gotten his four kids into school, and his wife into English language courses. The couple left their parents, siblings and other relatives behind in Afghanistan.

Moqbel is now working with U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, as a case manager for 21 other families.

“People are still coming from Afghanistan. We have to be ready for the people who are going to be coming from Ukraine,” said Global Cleveland President Joe Cimperman. Cimperman says he's aware of a few families who've already landed in the area, including Thursday, a mother and her 10-year-old son.

While the resettlement agencies have a formal process to help, they're constantly looking for good housing options, transportation and job opportunities for often skilled workers who don't have an American credit or employment history to call on. Anyone that help with those leads - is encouraged to reach out to Global Cleveland now. Click here for more.

At least 60 organizations were represented, all with an interest in helping Ukraine. The panel can be viewed below:

The state says since 2018, more than 500 Ukrainians have resettled in Ohio, more than 350 some of them in Greater Cleveland. Many were resettled under the Lautenberg Amendment, a federal program established in 1990 to allow religious minorities from the former Soviet Union to seek refuge in the U.S.

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