Seven officials representing member nations of the European Union are in Boise looking at the experience of Bosnians who have settled in Southern Idaho as Europe deals with its worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The officials, who came from Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Lithuania, are examining United States practices in resettling and integrating refugees. They want to see how resettlement efforts integrate immigrants and refugees into American society, and what steps are taken to combat discrimination.
“The European delegates who came here wanted to know what our experiences were and what we would recommend for them to do with their population,” said Ramajla “Maya” Duratovic, a Boise resident who left Bosnia at age 12.
More than 4,000 refugees who fled during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina came to Southern Idaho in the 1990s. Most ended up in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Twin Falls, Duratovic said. Many more families came from California and other places in the United States after friends and relatives praised Idaho’s climate and availability of jobs, she said.
Duratovic said she asked her mother for advice on what to tell the delegates, who arrived in Boise on Thursday and will leave on Tuesday.
“She said to make sure that your population welcomes these people who are coming in. Don’t make them feel like outsiders, so they can work and become productive members of society,” Duratovic said.
On Monday, the European Union held an emergency summit with Turkey in Brussels as they look to slow the flow of refugees entering Europe. This year, nearly 135,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration. Of those, 125,819 have ended up in the Greek Islands, with most of the remainder going to Italy.
Nearly 1 million refugees have arrived in Greece since the beginning of 2015. The majority have come from Syria, with others from Iraq, Yemen and Eritrea.
Almost all of the refugees have reached Europe through Turkey, which is currently sheltering more than 2.7 million refugees from neighboring Syria. “Hundreds of thousands” more are currently on the Syrian side of the border, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
The European Union wants Turkey to accept refugees who arrived in Europe but who do not qualify for asylum. The Union is offering $3.3 billion in aid in exchange.
Turkish officials have asked for double that amount in aid. They also are seeking a quicker plan for European Union membership for their country and faster approval of a plan to allow Turks to travel without visas to European nations.
The visit to Idaho by the European Union representatives was arranged through a professional exchange program operated through the U.S. State Department.
The Associated Press contributed.