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Fort Wayne's Burmese resettlement may rebound

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 9:22 am

The number of Burmese refugees resettling in Fort Wayne may return to normal this year after an unusually low number were admitted into the country in 2012.

The U.S. State Department has authorized Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne-South Bend to resettle up to 170 Burmese through September – an increase from the 40 refugees who settled here in fiscal 2012, but not an uncommon number, said Nyein Chan, resettlement director for Catholic Charities.

“This is not an unusual number. It is a very, very usual number,” Nyein Chan said.

The charity network also projected an influx of 170 Burmese in 2012, but security restrictions imposed by the federal government resulted in a lesser number, he said. For example, the government only admitted people who had immediate family living here, he said.

If the projected 170 refugees settle in Fort Wayne, it would bring the city's Burmese population to more than 4,000, based on the most recent Census data. About 3,900 were living here in 2010, according to the Census.

Fort Wayne has one of the greatest Burmese populations in the United States. Overall, more than 98,000 Burmese have come to the U.S. since 2007, fleeing an oppressive military regime that rules Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Fort Wayne saw a huge influx of Burmese in 2007 and 2008 – Catholic Charities resettled about 613 and 832 in those years, respectively. Since then, the organization has never resettled more than 239 in a given year, Nyein Chan said.