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Identity & Community

Market Square Welcomes World Refugee Day

Pittsburgh marks World Refugee Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in Market Square with musical performances, food and services for local refugees.

Agencies resettle about 500 refugees every year in the Pittsburgh area, an upward trend from 10 years ago. Most hail from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia and Iraq.

The city has become a hub for secondary migration for refugees initially placed in other areas who move to the Steel City for family, vibrant ethnic communities or employment opportunities. About a thousand secondary migrants have moved here every year since 2011.

In recent years, local refugees have faced a number of issues related to health care, housing and employment, so the city stepped up. Earlier this month, the city announced Welcoming Pittsburgh, a multi-year effort to make the city more hospitable for immigrants and refugees.

Leslie Aizenman, director of refugee and immigrant services at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, oversees another program, Immigrant Services and Connections. Funded by a $1 million block grant from the state Department of Health and Human Services, it was designed to help up to 2,000 individuals every year after their initial resettlement.

“Refugee dollars at some point can peter out," she said. "Now we’ve got ISAC, because some families still need help past a year.”

The event will be hosted by Pittsburgh’s 4 Resettlement agencies, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Northern Area Multi-Service Center, Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh and Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach with help from other organizations.