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Madison among 6 Wisconsin cities likely to resettle Afghan refugees

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:31 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Nearly 400 Afghan refugees slated to come to Wisconsin will likely settle in one of six cities, which includes Madison.

The Refugee Coordinator at Wisconsin’s Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) expects refugees to end up in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Wausau or Madison.

These six cities have already established refugee resettlement agencies and resources to help people coming to the United States.

“I think it’s important to mention that these are the people who left everything behind, some of them with the clothes on their backs,” Bojana Zoric Martinez, Director of Refugee Programs at the Wisconsin Dept. of Children and Families, said.

She has been the director of the Bureau of Refugee Programs since 2017.

“When you first arrive, you feel confused [and] scared,” Martinez said.

To Martinez, this is more than a job.

“I came here as a refugee myself back in 1999 and went through my own path to resettlement with not knowing the language or the culture or anything,” Martinez said.

Martinez moved to the United States with her family from Yugoslavia when she was 18. She has dedicated herself to helping others like her.

“Wisconsin has been approved by the Department of State to resettle 399 Afghan guests right now,” Martinez said.

Those refugees don’t necessarily have to come from Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, where thousands of Afghans are currently living. They could be placed in states from any of the other military bases housing refugees in the U.S.

“Based on some of those assurances that the resettlement agencies have received, we’re expecting to see some of the first of our Afghan refugees resettled in our communities next week,” Martinez said.

As newcomers walk through this process, Martinez says she’s dedicated to helping with the transition process and hopes Wisconsin communities welcome these refugees to their new home.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything else; these people need help and I once needed help, and I wouldn’t be here without the help of others,” Martinez said.

NBC15 also wanted to know what happens after refugees move to the area.

One Madison group called ‘Open Doors for Refugees’ says once refugees are settled, they will help connect them to the proper resources like jobs, education and transportation.

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