Could Ohio welcome Ukrainian refugees? DeWine announces first steps

The war has displaced nearly 3 million Ukrainians in the fortnight since it began.
Refugees get a meal and warm place to stay at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary...
Refugees get a meal and warm place to stay at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary before boarding a bus to Poland.(UBTS)
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:21 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - An Ohio refugee summit will ensure the state is prepared to handle a possible influx of Ukrainian emigres displaced by the Russian invasion.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday directed the Department of Jobs and Family Services to convene the summit of various service organizations. It will be held March 17 in Northeast Ohio.

Around 1.8 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded a fortnight ago. Most are in Poland, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. A million more Ukrainians are displaced with the country.

The EU is preparing to grant Ukrainians who flee the war a blanket right to stay and work throughout the 27 nations for up to three years.

President Joe Biden last week made Ukrainians in the US eligible for temporary protected status, which shields them from deportation and lets them seek employment. The measure lasts 18 months and applies only to those who arrived in the US before March 1.

Calls are mounting for the Biden administration to ease travel restrictions for Ukrainians fleeing to the US, but no such moves have been made thus far.

DeWine’s announcement of the summit seems to anticipate a change in course.

“Like many Ohioans, I am disgusted by the senseless aggression of the Russian military and want to support Ukrainian families being driven out of their country,” DeWine said. “While we do not yet know what role Ohio will play in helping these families, I want us to be prepared when the time does come.”

The summit will bring together resettlement agencies, faith-based organizations, charities and other organizations that could play a role in the relocation of Ukrainian families.

The governor’s office described the event as a way to help the organizations understand their roles in the event of an influx of refugees, including needs specific to the Ukrainian crisis.

Refugee programs are federal in nature. ODJFS is traditionally tasked determining intake capacity among Ohio’s local resettlement agencies and overseeing programs that help refugees after their resettlement, including monitoring their economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment.

ODJFS works similarly with local nonprofits, as it did with Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio to resettle Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover last year.

“ODJFS is pleased to help bring Ohio’s resettlement agencies, and other charitable organizations together to seek ways of helping displaced Ukrainians,” said ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder. “Over the next few days, we’ll be finalizing an agenda and providing more information to the key players in this effort.”

Damschroder said those wishing to donate to the cause may want to wait until more specific information about the needs is known.

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