Carol Kalajainen, co-founder of the Midcoast New Mainers Support Group, photographed here during a meeting in September, outlined immediate needs of asylum seekers from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that recently moved to Bath. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — The Mid Coast New Mainers Group will give an update on the community’s newest residents at a public meeting next week in Bath.

The group invited Nsiona Nguizani, Brunswick’s cultural broker and the president of the Angolan Community of Maine, to speak next Monday about what it’s like to be an asylum seeker in Maine and discuss how people can create a welcoming community for their new neighbors.

An African immigrant himself, Nguizani arrived in Maine in January 2012. He was granted asylum and is now a permanent resident. He estimates there are about 2,500 Angolans living in Maine, and 629 asylum cases are pending.

In September, Martha Stein, executive director of Hope Acts, and Carol Kalajainen, co-founder of the Midcoast New Mainers Support Group, estimated there were about four young families with children living in Bath.

Nearly 450 asylum seekers – mostly from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – stayed at the Portland Expo after arriving in Maine in mid-June, fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. Kalajainen said the asylum seekers chose Maine because they knew there are established Angolan and Congolese communities and available social services.

From there, asylum seekers have been dispersed throughout the Portland area and southern Maine. About 60 asylum seekers have settled in Brunswick, where temporary free housing was established at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

“We want to encourage newcomers to use their skills to help Maine,” said Nguizani. “These new Mainers are smart and have a lot to offer. We want our people to come together and bring gains to the state that has helped us in our time of need.”

Nguizani said it’s important to make the new families feel safe in their new homes and know they have rights, even if they aren’t yet U.S. citizens.

“Asylum seekers did not flee their home countries and come to the U.S. to be a burden,” said Kalajainen in September. “They came to have a safe place to raise their children, learn English, to work, to become taxpayers and to help other people.”

In September, Kalajainen and Stein said some of Bath’s asylum seekers were living in host homes, while others had already found permanent housing. No additional host homes are needed at the time, and they hoped to have everyone in permanent homes by the end of October.

In addition to housing, the asylum seekers’ immediate needs were language translators who could speak French, Portuguese and Lingala, transportation, and access to attorneys to help them file for asylum, according to Stein.

If people want to help asylum seekers, Stein and Kalajainen recommended contacting Midcoast New Mainers Support Group at mcnmg.org to see what services or donations are needed.

Stein asked attendees not to arrive at asylum seekers’ doorsteps with donations.

“It’s really overwhelming for them,” Stein said. “Please respect their privacy.”

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, at the Patten Free Library.

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