The family of two Syrian refugees that has resettled in the Midlands is in Richland County, according to Lutheran Services Carolinas, the group helping them relocate in this area.
Another, larger family of refugees is expected to resettle in South Carolina as well, despite Gov. Nikki Haley’s request that Syrians not be relocated to the state because of security concerns.
Bedrija Jazic, director of Refugee Services for Lutheran Services Carolinas, said that family will include 11 refugees, including two parents, two grandparents and seven children. Jazic said her organization has not been assigned any other Syrian refugee families at this time but that more could still be assigned.
Haley had asked federal officials not to relocate Syrian refugees in South Carolina for fear that terrorists have infiltrated the refugees’ ranks. The Governor’s Office said it wasn’t told by federal authorities the refugees were being resettled in South Carolina, learning about it only through a partnership with the Department of Social Services and the resettlement agency.
Wednesday, the governor’s office said the pair of refugees had been resettled in the Midlands. Friday, Lutheran Services confirmed they were in Richland County.
Jazic said people working with the families are looking for “welcoming communities.”
“They have heard from concerned citizens, and we respect their concerns,” she said. “But we have heard from many, many more that do support us and this work and are willing to welcome these refugees.”
The Governor’s Office said it notified its law enforcement partners that Syrian refugees are arriving and trusts those partners will take proper security measures. The State Law Enforcement Division was one of the partners notified, spokesman Thom Berry said. Berry declined to say more on what steps SLED would take.
Lutheran Services and the state’s Social Services agency would not be more specific about where the refugees are living, citing privacy and security concerns.
But Social Services and other appropriate agencies, including law enforcement, know where they are for the safety of everyone involved, including the refugees, Social Services spokeswoman Karen Wingo said Friday.
The family of two that has settled in Richland County fled Syria in 2012, and the family of 11 fled the country in 2011, Jazic said.
“There was no way for these people to come back home and be safe,” Jazic said. “The only permanent solution for them was to be resettled. So the vetting process for these families started a long time ago.”
She said she does not know when the 11-member family will arrive and that it hasn’t yet been determined where the family will resettle in South Carolina.
Jazic said the seven children in the family are between ages 5 and 18 and that each will be enrolled in public schools when they arrive. Jazic said her organization would try to find work for the adults in the families.
The goal is to successfully integrate them and make them self-sufficient, she said.
Staff writer Cassie Cope contributed to this story.