(WXYZ) — The metro Detroit area is gearing up to welcome thousands of Afghan refugees over the coming months.
But this is not the first time Michigan will be hosting a resettlement program. In fact, in the last decade, nearly 31,000 refugees from 52 countries have resettled in Michigan alone.
And most of them still remember their tragic stories.
"When the militia wanted to kill me, they put a bomb outside my home. And when it exploded, my wife was pregnant ... it killed our child,” said Alaa Al-Zuwayyian.
Alaa escaped with his wife from Iraq back in 2016. For them, it meant a second chance at life.
"When I arrived to Michigan, I said, 'thanks God, I found a safe place to live,'” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of State, since 2010, 52% of Michigan’s refugee population immigrated from Iraq, followed by Burma with 12% and Congo at 10%. Mihaela Mitrofan, director at Samaritas says Michigan was a top destination for refugees during the Iraq War, and now the state will play a key role to resettle the displaced after the Afghan War.
"On October 1st, Samaritas will resettle 1,000 refugees, also 350 Afghan refugees here in Michigan," said Mihaela.
A Global Detroit study reveals more than 60% of the refugees have resettled in Southfield, Troy, and Dearborn. Susan Kragt from Bethany Christian Services says it's primarily due to a heavy Arab population in those areas.
"West Michigan, we’ve had much more diverse group of refugees coming in," said Susan.
But resettlement in Michigan could take months, as the vetting process is intense.
"After the vetting process is completed overseas, the family selection is done during the interview process ... If they have a brother or sister, then it gets forwarded to Samaritas caseload ... cases that don’t have family connections go into the quota system and get distributed accordingly," said Mihaela.
So, why is Michigan the preferred choice for refugees?
"Policies are very favorable, there is language access offered in many service sectors ... the governor is supportive of refugee resettlement," said Mihaela.
As communities across Michigan continue to welcome refugees, people like Alaa can once again feel humanity.
"Especially the first week, I saw people introducing themselves, saying hi ... I was really surprised. It made me really happy,” he said.