The first Ukrainian refugees arriving in Mass. will live in Westfield

April 7, 2022 Nirvani Williams, New England Public Media WBUR

A Ukrainian family was expected to arrive in Massachusetts Wednesday night as the first refugees to enter the state after Russia's invasion of the country.

The family of six will reside in an apartment in Westfield. They are resettling through Ascentria Care Alliance, a resettlement agency with an office in West Springfield.

The family was granted refugee admission to United States prior to the war. They were scheduled to arrive in Westfield in February, but due to COVID positive tests, their travel was rescheduled and then canceled because of the outbreak of the war.

Caroline Davis, a program manager at Ascentria, said the family been based in Romania since the initial rescheduling of their travel and "have been anxiously awaiting, along with many other clients who had travel rescheduled."

They are arriving to the U.S. through a family unification process specific to eastern Europeans.

Davis said it will be harder for Ukrainians who do not have refugee status.

"At this point, the resettlement process in the United States for non Afghan refugees places a family into poverty immediately. They are dependent on public benefits and support," Davis said. "I think there are other ways that we could approach resettlement, and we've seen success with these supplemental fundings."

Davis said Ascentria is processing about 50 Ukrainian evacuees who escaped individually and do not have refugee status.

The state Legislature is finalizing a supplemental budget that would allot $10 million for agencies to support Ukrainian evacuees.

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