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Roanoke now home to 21 Syrian refugees

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - As violence continues in Syria, millions of refugees are being forced to seek refuge in other countries.

Many are coming half a world away to the United States, and to cities like Roanoke.

The Star City has now accepted 21 refugees, making it the third largest Syrian refugee population in the state, and Mayor Sherman Lea says that number is likely to grow.

Lea says the Human Services Department is working with statewide organizations like the Commonwealth Catholic Charities, or CCC, to work to acclimate refugees into society.

He says with more than 80 refugees across Virginia, Roanoke is trying to do its part to aid in the crisis.

Across the United States, more than 7,500 Syrian refugees have found a new home.

Lea says the influx isn't likely to slow anytime soon.

"It is very likely the we'll see more, and that's something that we cannot control locally. It's pretty much from the Federal Government. We recognize that we basically they make those decisions," said Lea.

In response, Lea says the city is working with the CCC to help refugees assimilate into American culture.

In a statement, the Commonwealth Catholic Charities says quote "It is obvious that first couple of months are challenging to every refugee population. We provide cultural and community orientation, employment and english language training, job development and placement assistance."

On the city side, Lea says they offer additional services.

"Medical assistance, needing funds, applying for medicaid, all those normal things that happen, we're going to make it as easy as possible," said Lea.

Lea says he's not worried about his city's security with the new addition to the population.

Rather, he says he sees it as a service to his country.

"We don't see it as a danger or a threat. We, our State Department tells us they've been vetted, yeah there are a lot of sometimes flaws in the system, but we perceive that we're doing what our Government has asked us to do," said Lea.

Moving forward, Lea says the city government, like several others around the state, will remain receptive and supportive of those in need from across the globe.

"That's what we're all about, here in our City, to make it a friendly area for these refugees to find a home," said Lea.

In addition to accepting refugees here at home, the United States has also sent more than $5.6 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria, with more than $430 million last month alone.