COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday called for a summit of refugee organizations to plan for a possible influx of refugees coming from Ukraine.
DeWine called on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to bring together multiple organizations March 17 for a summit of organizations “who could play a role in the relocation of Ukrainian families" in northeast Ohio.
DeWine’s office noted that 500 Ukrainians have resettled in Ohio since 2018, most in the Cleveland area. Cuyahoga County is home to more than 15,000 people of Ukrainian descent, according to U.S. Census data.
“Like many Ohioans, I am disgusted by the senseless aggression of the Russian military and want to support Ukrainian families being driven out of their country,” said DeWine. “While we do not yet know what role Ohio will play in helping these families, I want us to be prepared when the time does come.”
According to the United Nations, 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24. The organization noted that 1.2 million of them have fled to Poland. The U.N. says that some of those have gone on to other countries.
While the federal government handles requests for resettlement, it is up to states and local organizations to help get refugees acclimated to their new home.
“ODJFS is pleased to help bring Ohio’s resettlement agencies and other charitable organizations together to seek ways of helping displaced Ukrainians,” said ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder. “Over the next few days, we’ll be finalizing an agenda and providing more information to the key players in this effort.”
Soon after the conflict between Ukraine and Russia started, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Global Cleveland President Joe Cimperman said the area was ready to welcome those needing to resettle.
“We strongly condemn this attack that will result in the loss of innocent lives and is a direct threat to the freedom of so many,” Bibb, Budish and Cimperman said in a joint statement. “As thousands of individuals are displaced from their homes and livelihoods in the face of war and violence, we want to remind the world that the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio are here to embrace them with open arms.
“We are no stranger to welcoming the newcomer – refugee, asylum-seeker or immigrant fleeing persecution and war – and we are ready to do so again. Cleveland is home to a beautiful, vibrant community made up of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, and we will continue to be a safe, unifying place for those seeking peace and prosperity. In the face of this threat to freedom, we stand shoulder to shoulder with those throughout the world who are advocating for peace and human rights.”