Utica: The Last Refuge

Click to watch the film’s trailer (2:17)

Utica: The Last Refuge opens with the Azeins, a refugee family of four from Sudan, arriving at Syracuse International Airport. After spending six years in a camp in Ethiopia, they have finally made it to the US, where they are welcomed by Abdelshakour, a fellow refugee from Sudan. Utica’s Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) is regarded nationally as a model agency for how refugee resettlement is done, for how they guide Utica’s refugees into comfortable jobs and lives, but they are suddenly facing new stresses. Under President Trump’s administration, refugee resettlement policy changed dramatically. Reduced incoming numbers means a reduced budget.

The typical ups and downs of the Azeins’ story of acclimation is softened by Utica itself. A small city rebounding after its population fell from a high of nearly 110,000 in the 1960s to a low of about 60,000, Utica is building its recovery around refugees. The refugees, they say, are hardworking and dedicated. As of 2017, industry was returning to the area.

Questions abound. Will Utica’s economic turnaround be slowed by a drop in incoming refugees? As refugee resettlement agencies across the country are forced to close their doors, will MVRCR survive? Will the Azeins find a way to support themselves? While much media attention is focused on where refugees first land, on beaches and in camps, Utica: The Last Refuge looks at why the future is so bleak for most refugees: the system is backed up…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.hrwstf.org/wordpress/utica-the-last-refuge/