According to the United Nations, refugees are people who have fled their home countries due to war, ethnic or religious conflict, or other problems, and are not able to return for fear of persecution. Refugees who came to Utica were not only seeking a better life, like the many immigrant groups who are evident here today. Their human rights have been violated through war, ethnic cleansing, religious and cultural persecution. They have official refugee status, which means they do not have citizenship and are not welcome in their home countries. Many of them had been living in refugee camps, or hiding in the jungle, for months, years, or decades before coming here.
During the past 30 years, the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees has resettled people from 31 countries in Utica. The mission of the Center is to promote the well-being of immigrants and assist them in sustaining their cultural identity. They offers a wide range of services to refugees and their families.
At its height in 1997, the Center welcomed more than 1,000 Bosnians. During the past five years, the center has resettled an average of 500 refugees per year, most of whom have been Karen/Burmese refugees.