Tarlan Ahmadov, Program Manager of Refugee & Immigration Services and Language Partners, a program of Catholic Charities Maine (CCM), was our speaker on August 23.  Dick Lebrecque introduced Tarlan who was born in Azerbaijan, at that time part of the Soviet Union. Prior to his immigration to the US, he graduated from Baku University with a Masters Degree in History and Social Sciences.  Tarlan worked in Education in Baku, and later joined the non-profit sector, combined with consulting business to the Consulate of Azerbaijan in Tehran, Iran. Tarlan has worked in different capacities with local and international NGOs, such as IFES and Social Research Center, and speaks several languages fluently. He joined CCM in November 2003 as a volunteer and was hired as a Resettlement Case Manager the following year.
Tarlan spoke to us about the current world refugee situation.  In 2015, 65.3M people left their homes, with most from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Only 21.3M of those were accepted as refugees by United Nations definition. A refugee is defined as a person who is unable to return to their own country because of well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
In 2015, 10M people were “stateless”, meaning they were staying in refugee camps and not considered residents of any country. In that same year, the United States accepted 70,000 refugees who had been in the vetting process for 3-5 years. Of those, 442 settled in Maine.  The projection for 2016 is 85,000, with about 525 likely to settle in Maine.  Most refugees who enter the US settle in California, Texas, New York and Arizona, where infrastructure is in place to handle higher numbers.
Catholic Charities of Maine subcontracts with its national Catholic organization which holds contracts with the Federal Government to provide settlement support to new refugees. In allocating refugees to different parts of the country, the US Government looks at the available infrastructure in the form of: Housing, Employment, Language spoken, Places of worship, and availability of support services.  They also look for opportunities for reunification of families. Resettlement can take as long as 20 years.  While that time has been shortened, it can still take 5 or more years for a refugee to be approved for resettlement.
CCM also supports asylum seekers. Asylees are individuals who have sought protection for fear of persecution. Protection is generally sought upon arrival in a “third” country.  They cannot work for 6 months, then must work to support themselves while waiting for the asylum application to be reviewed and approved.
CCM has several programs aimed at providing support to refugees and asylees.  These include:
  • Interpreting & Translation services – CCM has a paid and volunteer network that can provide assistance in 40 languages.
  • Employment Services – Case Managers provide support and guidance to job seekers and employers alike.
  • Mentoring Program – Volunteers support adult refugees/asylees in their efforts to reach their personal, academic and career goals
  • American Friends Volunteer Program – Volunteers help educate, orient and integrate new Mainers into the community
They also provide education to others in the local business, government, and non-profit communities through their Multicultural Training for Corporations, Government Agencies and Not-for-Profits.
You can learn more about CCM and any of their programs by visiting their website: http://www.ccmaine.org/