Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Refugees being attacked at residential complex in Lansing, MI since November

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 26, 2012

Car break-ins, ’30-plus’ broken windows, an old man getting punched in the face, a young woman…kicked’, and theft.” Those are some of the incidents at Summer Place Townhomes in Lansing, MI that refugees say have happened to them since November. The refugees, from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq, say they have been the target of a group of 10 and 20 local teenagers. Some of the refugees find it hard to sleep at night, while others are taking turns staying up at night to watch for trouble. The Lansing Police Department doesn’t seem to know much about what’s happening though refugees have reported the ongoing crimes. An article at Lansing City Pulse has the story:

…Bo is a refugee from Burma and has lived in Summer Place Townhomes for about seven years…

…since November, Bo and his family haven’t been sleeping due to a combination of fear and duty — they take turns staying up all night to keep intruders away. Several other neighbors in Summer Place report similar situations.

It’s been quiet, safe, secure,” Bo said, referring to the years leading up to November. Then he rattles off nearly daily instances when he and his neighborhood have been the target of a group of local teenagers, between 10 and 20 of them: car break-ins, “30-plus” broken windows, an old man getting punched in the face, a young woman “about my age kicked by those people,” theft.

So this is why you stand guard overnight. “Yeah, it’s very dangerous. We all worry. You gotta watch out and stay awake.”

Bo fears the worst: that the harassment will turn deadly. At one point, he armed himself with a pellet gun, which he said was subsequently taken by the Lansing Police Department. “We are not shooting for anything. I believe I’m doing the right thing. It’s like I’m security, protecting all people, not just the Burmese.”

As I walk through the neighborhood Saturday before meeting Bo, refugees from Iraq and Bhutan tell similar stories. 

Dozens of young children — from toddlers to teenagers — were playing in the street and courtyards. Adults gathered around, keeping an eye on them. The day before, the group came and broke a car window, said Ammar Mahdi, a 41-year-old refugee from Iraq. Mahdi’s English was broken and, at times, his 10-year-old son, Yousif, acted as a translator.

We need help. It’s every day,” Mahdi said. “I am not sleeping.”..

…Devi Ghimisey is from Bhutan and about the same age as Mahdi. He lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for 18 years before coming to the U.S. three years ago.

They come while we’re sleeping. Kids playing football — they come and beat them up. They come and throw rocks,” Ghimisey said.

Recently, the group stole Mohammed Mohahamed’s children’s three bikes. Two weeks ago, they broke his neighbor’s house windows. Mohahamed is 33 and also came from Iraq. “I want to change this trouble,” he said. “I want the street here safe.”…

While this has been going on, arrests have been scarce…neighbors say the response from the Lansing Police Department has been inadequate…

…neighbors say they feel discouraged from calling the police because the trouble keeps happening — even after reports…

…Alfonso Salas, who owns Lansing Athletics sporting goods store…says that while it’s a rough neighborhood to begin with, he thinks it’s racially charged. And he warns that something needs to change, or “it’s gonna get bad.”

Because of the color of their skin and who they are, they get beat up on,” he said. “I feel for them… Read more here

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