Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Burma-Myanmar refugee involved in killing — was he screened/treated for mental illness?

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 22, 2011

A refugee man from Burma/Myanmar in St. Paul allegedly stabbed another refugee to death and then stabbed and blinded his own wife in an incident Saturday involving hallmarks of severe mental illness. The murder victim was purportedly another refugee from Burma/Myanmar, employed at a meat processing plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota. This tragedy may be another consequence of not consistently screening or treating refugees for major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD and other mental illnesses. An article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press tells what happened:

A 48-year-old St. Paul man has been charged with murder and attempted murder after he allegedly killed a man he believed had designs on his wife, then turned the weapon on her.

Police were called to an apartment in the 1400 block of Farrington Street about 7 a.m. Saturday. A witness yelled, “He killed him. There is a body in there,” and pointed to the window of the apartment, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court.

Police found Po Lye, 40, deceased, with “a very deep and wide laceration to (his) neck,” the complaint said. The wife was blinded in both eyes from stab wounds.

Officers said previously that Lye was from Albert Lea, Minn. Alleged assailant Pah Ber was arrested at the scene… Read more here

The federal refugee resettlement program does not require contractors to screen incoming refugees for mental illnesses – medical screening during refugees’ first 30 days in the US only involves physical health issues (State Department’s requirements for contractors see Health at bottom of list). This is obviously foolhardy when we know that the traumatic experiences and upheaval involved in the refugee experience is associated with suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, and other mental disorders. We need look no further than incidents of tragedy among refugees from Bhutan/Nepal (and here), Burma/Myanmar, Sudan, Somalia (and here), and other refugees.

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