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Nearly 1000 Refugees Have Settled in Iowa So Far This Year

Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons
Refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Nearly 1000 refugees have been resettled in Iowa this year.

Source: Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System

Director of Admissions for the U.S. State Department Larry Bartlett says while these new Iowans come from all over the world, the one thing they have in common is that they were forced to leave their homes.

“They fled because they’ve been persecuted, sometimes because their own government. Sometimes by others,” Bartlett says. “But the common story in a refugee’s life is that they’ve forced to leave home, they’ve been forced to leave just about everything behind. Number one: just to preserve their own family and their own lives.”

The largest refugee groups coming to Iowa this year are from Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan. Eighty-five Syrians have settled in Des Moines. Nearly a quarter of Iowa’s 1,000 new residents come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Bartlett says many Americans are less of aware of the ongoing political instability and violence in this central African nation.

“The fighting in eastern Congo has be going on for many, many years. People continue to flee over time, and kind of the common story is that nobody can go home. And so we the U.S. government, with some of the assistance of the U.N., have been helping a number of these refugees find a new life in the United States.”

The Congolese in Iowa are resettling in the Des Moines metro and the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City areas.

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Larry Bartlett about refugee settlement in Iowa. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River