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Plans for Syrian refugee center moving forward in Pontiac

Nov 17, 2015

People moving from Syria into Turkey in September 2014.
Credit European Commission DG ECHO

Plans to transform an abandoned elementary school and nearby vacant lots in Pontiac into a community center catering to Syrian refugees are moving forward.

This in spite of Gov. Rick Snyder's announcement that he's putting Syrian refugee resettlement efforts on hold in Michigan.

Syrian-American businessman Ismael Basha is one of the project's organizers.

He said he was disappointed in Snyder's announcement, which came in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

"[Refugees] go through a very stringent process to come to the United States. [Snyder] knows that, as a governor. Maybe the average public doesn't know, but the governor knows," Basha said.

Scores of Syrian refugees have resettled in Michigan in the past year and others who were granted approval prior to Snyder's announcement are due to arrive soon.

Basha said they need services.

"These people who are coming to United States from Syria, they themselves are the No. 1 recipient of tyranny and torture and killing by ISIS," Basha said. "They are running from ISIS. They are victims of ISIS."

Basha said though the center will cater to Syrians, it will be open to refugees from other countries and members of the community at large.

He said services will include English classes, driving instruction, day care, and recreational activities.