New Hampshire city considers allowing refugee resettlement

December 17, 2019 GMT

LEBANON, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire city is considering whether to allow refugees to resettle there, though the move would largely be symbolic, officials said.

The issue will be discussed at a Lebanon City Council meeting Wednesday.

“These are folks who have come from some very difficult areas” and are vetted by the State Department, Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara told Valley News. “I definitely would be happy for us to be part of the program.”

But even if the city approves resettlement of refugees, the bulk of people will still head to the state’s most populous cities like Manchester, Nashua and Concord, said Barbara Seebart, New Hampshire’s state refugee coordinator.

Lebanon lacks key factors that are new to integrating people like affordable housing, strong public transit and job availability, Seebart said, and because of that “refugee resettlement has always been a largely urban endeavor.”

Lebanon is also far from the two nonprofits approved by the government to resettle refugees, she said.

Under an executive order from the Trump administration, state and local governments are required to give approval before refugees can be housed there.

Gov. Chris Sununu gave his consent in November, but individual communities can decide whether to opt in.

The number of refugees settled in the state has decreased significantly in recent years. Last year, 162 refugees were settled in New Hampshire compared to 518 in 2016.

Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, recently voted to support refugee resettlement there.