SALT LAKE CITY — Sixty-thousand refugees from around the world call Utah home. But, the path from their war-torn homelands to prosperity in Utah is strewn with many challenges. Catholic Community Services urged more local employers to hire refugees, so they can adapt more quickly and support their families.
"They don't have any experience, so we are pleading with the employers in our community to help refugees get a job," said Aden Batar, refugee resettlement director for Catholic Community Services.
When they arrive, CCS helps the refugees with housing, healthcare and English lessons so they can get a job.
"We don't want them to live on welfare," said Batar. "So, we want them to become self-sufficient as soon as possible by providing them the support they need."
Hassibullah Danish had a good education and a career as an architect in Afghanistan. But, for 35 years, war ravaged his homeland. During the past decade, he worked with U.S. forces. But a year ago, the Taliban labeled him a traitor and threatened his life.
"They told me, you are a federal traitor," said Danish. "Give up the job, or we will kill you."
He escaped with his wife and three young children. His parents, brother and sister are still in Afghanistan.
"Still, my family is in danger," he said. "We lost everything in Afghanistan: my house, my car, my family, my relatives, everything."
But a fresh start in Utah with nothing is better than a life under threat, he said.
"You don't know if tonight they will kill me, or tomorrow they will kill me. It is difficult."
Utah resettles more than 1100 refugees each year from 20 different countries. The greatest numbers of refugees arriving today are the Iraqis, Somalis and the Congolese.
Catholic Community Services held an event today to honor several companies which go out of their way to hire refugees: Carlson Staffing, Residence Inn-Marriott Downtown, Hilton Hotel-Downtown and Hyatt Downtown. CCS also encouraged other employers to give refugees opportunities to succeed.
"Refugees are survivors," said Batar. "They went through a lot. So, it's not difficult for them to pick up the pieces and start a new life."
Batar knows that well. He arrived as a refugee from Somalia 21 years ago. He now works at Catholic Community Services to help others assimilate and find work.
"They can contribute to our economy," he said. "They can support their families and everybody wins."
Danish now works as a security guard and aspires to get back into architecture. His kids attend safe schools. His wife is learning English. He says it's still a struggle to support his family but that first job was his key to continued success.