Refugees celebrated at State Capitol

State lawmakers and nonprofit agencies gathered at the State Capitol Wednesday morning to highlight the benefits refugees bring to Georgia.

More than 2,000 refugees are resettled in Georgia annually. Most come from Bhutan, Iraq, Myanmar, and Somalia.

In 2012 and 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration asked the federal government to substantially cut the numbers coming to Georgia. State officials cited state and local taxpayer costs associated with taking in the refugees, school budget shortfalls and other concerns.

At the “New Americans Celebration” at the Capitol, speakers underscored how refugees work, pay taxes and create businesses in Georgia. Eighty percent of refugee households in Georgia begin working and paying their own expenses within six months of arrival, the highest self-sufficiency rate in the nation, according to the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies.

Awet Woldegebriel, who came to Georgia years ago as a refugee from Ethiopia, was among those who spoke at Wednesday’s event.

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“The opportunities here are endless,” said Woldegebriel, who is working for Coca-Cola and is about to graduate from Oglethorpe University. America, he added, “is the most beautiful and most generous country and it has welcomed a lot of refugees.”

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