Gilich: Avoid speculation on refugee issue

Speculation about Syrian refugees being relocated to Biloxi is misinformed and creating unnecessary anxiety, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said today.

Gilich said his administration has spoken with Catholic Social Services, which some Internet stories have identified as the agency being the conduit for refugees to relocate. Catholic Social Services has been in contact with immigration officials and has no expectation of having to accept Syrian refugees in Biloxi.

“Of course, we will be vigilant,” Gilich said. “The Biloxi Police Department maintains regular contact with multiple local, state and federal agencies with an interest in the on-going Syrian refugee situation.  Through these relationships we aim to keep abreast of any change to the immigration status of foreign nationals.  We also will work with Catholic Social Services to stay on top of this.

“The fact is, there are no known plans to bring any Syrian refugees to Biloxi,” added Gilich, who is a direct descendent of Croatian refugees who moved here more than 100 years ago.

“There were probably some locals back then who didn’t like the idea of my ancestors moving in, especially considering they were escaping from grave situations at that time,” he added. “I think the record shows that the Croatians became successful citizens and leaders in our community. Biloxi is a diverse city of many nationalities that reflects a rich multi-cultural history of immigration that continues to this day.”

Gilich also said the local Catholic Social Services officials are in regular contact with the U.S. Catholic Bishops organization that has been asked by the federal government to facilitate refugee relocation. He added that the local Catholic Social Services office typically accepts only a handful of refugees each year, with most coming from Southeast Asia.