One organizer is Doug Haskett, the program coordinator for PREP, the Pinellas Refugee Education Program. He says the number of refugees allowed into the United States has declined drastically under President Trump.
“In 2016 we had approximately 84,000 total arrivals nationwide. In 2017 we had approximately 53,000 arrivals nationwide. and in 2018 we had approximately 22,000 arrivals nationwide. Currently, we have 30,000 refugees allocated by the president to arrive in the United States this fiscal year. So the change is really coming from the administration in Washington.”
How about in the Tampa Bay area? Where are refugees from that live in Tampa Bay?
“The top five populations for Tampa Bay are Cubans, Congolese, Egyptians, Haitians and Venezuelans. The Egyptians and Venezuelans seek asylum here. And once they’re approved our programs are able to serve them well.”
How many in Tampa Bay? How many have arrived, for example, in the first half of this year?
“We’ve had 604 total arrivals for the first half of this fiscal year. That’s October the 1st 2018 through March 31st, 2019.”
What’s it like for a refugee who is arriving in the Tampa Bay area?
“The conditions are excellent for arriving refugees. We work with resettlement agencies. They go to pick them up at the airport. They take them to low-cost housing. They have stocked their pantry and their refrigerators with ethnic foods; they cook them an ethnic meal. And then they bring them to us.
“We are Pinellas Refugee Education Program and we teach them English. After they get English proficiency and they’re able to sit in a classroom at Pinellas Technical College, we have 77 different programs — that range from plumbing, electrical, digital video, nursing, dental assisting, etc. — that we can get them into. We have between 70 and 90 percent completion, licensure and placement. And we’re very proud of that at Pinellas Technical College.”
And you also teach them citizenship?
“Yes we do. That’s the last step in our services — we teach them citizenship so that they can become American citizens.”
The World Refugee Day celebration is this Friday, June 14, from 1:00 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College (P-TEC), 901 34th Street South in St. Petersburg.
Here are two videos they’ve produced on refugees: