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Iraqi Refugees Resettle in Atlanta, Georgia?



First and foremost, Sarmad Edrees is a family man. Second, he is a businessman. Third, he is a relative newcomer to the United States after fleeing his homeland.
Edrees ran a large and profitable poultry farm in Abu Ghraib, just a short drive outside of Baghdad, Iraq, until 2000.Currently, he co-owns a cab company with his cousin, Hilal, with headquarters off Elbert Street near the Athens Perimeter.

Threatened by dictator Saddam Hussein, Edrees fled by boat to Australia. There he lived far away from his wife and four children until the toppling of Hussein’s regime compelled him to return. But his country, difficult to live in under a military dictatorship, exploded with ever-present violence following the arrival of U.S. troops.
Before the U.S. invasion, if Hussein’s regime had a problem with you, Edrees explained, it was only with you. By fleeing the country, he could save his family from harm.
The situation deteriorated following Hussein’s ouster.
No one was safe, Edrees said.
Covert aggressors attempted to kidnap his youngest brother, he said, and torched his sibling’s car. To make matters worse, he said, they had no clue who was threatening them.
“They all have uniforms,” he said. “You can buy a uniform for $20.”
After a year back in Iraq, Edrees and his family fled to Jordan, where they applied for refugee status and eventually made their way to the U.S.
In 2009, Edrees joined his brother already living for more than a year in Athens. Now settled in Oconee county, the Edrees family doubled in November when Sarmad’s brother, Mohaned, arrived with his wife and four children. They all share a modest home off Highway 78.
“In 16 years, we’ve never placed people in Watkinsville,” said Mike Hoffer, a case manger with World Relief, one of the many agencies that help resettle refugees in Georgia. Hoffer is assigned to Mohaned and his family.
Organizations like World Relief, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta, and the International Rescue Committee help refugees adapt to life in Georgia in many ways, including basic assimilation, but do so immediately by finding housing and jobs for new arrivals.
Sarmad, however, has been Mohaned’s caseworker, Hoffer said, explaining that Sarmad’s presence meant World Relief needed to fill far fewer of Mohaned’s needs.
Resettlement agencies prefer to place new refugees close to family or existing ethnic communities to ease the transition to life in the U.S. Family ties and communities are often bundled around resources – agency offices, English language classes, jobs – necessary to acclimation.MORE
  • 58,179: Total refugees who came to U.S. in 2012
  • 21,292: Refugee children who entered the U.S. in 2012
  • Main source countries in U.S.: Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Cuba
  • Refugee arrivals by County 2004-2013
  • Clarke: 25
  • Oconee: 6
  • Jackson: 21
  • Madison: 145
  • Walton: 63
  • Barrow: 25
  • DeKalb: 14,968
  • Gwinnett: 1,125
  • Georgia refugees by Origin 2004-13
  • Burma: 5,137
  • Bhutan: 4,379
  • Somalia: 3,145
  • Iraq: 1,737
  • Ethiopia: 889
  • Federal Funding for refugees:
  • Incoming,
  • $12,210,949 in total federal funding
  • $979,993 in private and corporate donations
  • Outgoing,
  • $5,450,000 in cash and medical assistance
  • $2,652,963 in social services
  • $1,632,980 in targeted assistance
  • $152,790 refugee preventative health grant
  • $550,000 refugee school impact grant
  • $4,006,200 match grant program
  • Sources: U.S Office of Immigration Statistics, Georgia Coalition of Refugee Stakeholders, U.S Office of Refugee Resettlement

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