Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

‘Any Job Offered': Refugees with professional credentials denied appropriate employment services

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 28, 2010

Refugees with professional credentials continue to receive inappropriate employment services from many refugee resettlement agencies. Trained as doctors, engineers, and lawyers, most of these refugees are placed in no-skill or low-skill jobs — cleaning, assembly, landscaping labor, etc. — with almost no attempt made to place them in jobs where they could use their skills.

Iraqi SIV immigrants reported about these problems in Sacraemnto (here).

According to Michelle Karolak, director of the refugee resettlement program at Catholic Charities in Jacksonville, this isn’t her fault, it’s the refugees’ fault (here).

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“A lot of our other clients – although not all of them – are willing to take whatever is offered,” said Michelle Karolak, director of the refugee resettlement program for the local operations of Catholic Charities. “Iraqis, not so much.”

“We have no choice,” Karolak said. “We have to get them up and running as fast as we can.”

Yet, do they have to get them, “up and running as soon as possible”, only in low-skill jobs? There is no such requirement. The refugee program stresses the need for early self-sufficiency, but does not require resettlement agencies to place refugees in low-pay, low-skill jobs. In fact, jobs for which refugees can use their professional skills are much more likely to allow them to become self-sufficient. Also, what does she mean, “as fast as we can”? Refugees, almost as a rule, report that they sit for months at a time with no one helping them to find jobs.

According to refugees in Jacksonville they’ve had to find professional jobs on their own because local resettlement agencies won’t help them.

Majid Abdulmajeed…was hired as an adjunct professor of chemical engineering based on his experience in Iraq. But he only got the job after an acquaintance passed his resume to the school.

“The main employment agent didn’t suggest jobs like this,” he said.

Well, why not? Have resettlement agencies begun to believe their own PR that Iraqi refugees are just too difficult, and refugees must accept any job offered? According to the Matching Grant Program requirements (only 30% of refugees are enrolled in it, but the resettlement agencies are doing everything they can to get the government to expand the program) refugees must accept the first job offered, but even in that case that doesn’t mean that resettlement agencies have to refer the refugees to inappropriate jobs.

Many resettlement agencies seem to have an extraordinarily difficult time thinking outside of the box, and of course refugees continue to pay the price for that.

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One Response to “‘Any Job Offered': Refugees with professional credentials denied appropriate employment services”

  1. [...] funding to funds these services? Do they really need more government funding simply to direct refugees with professional credentials and experience to jobs that are right for [...]

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