Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘asylees’ Category

Resettlement services for asylees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2014

torch

A comment (see below) left under our link for the State Department’s Operational Guidance contract document for refugee resettlement agencies gives us a look at the IRC Phoenix office. They placed an asylee in an apartment with a non-working air conditioning in 100 degree heat and the case worker would do nothing to assist with the problem.

As it turns out asylees are not eligible for the State Department services that are associated with initial refugee resettlement program found in contract documents such as the Operational Guidance. Asylees are, however, eligible for programs funded by the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement). They may get up to five years of certain services including employment, immigration and case management services, and subsidized mental health services, and may also be eligible for other federal or state funded programs and services.

The writer indicates that the asylee is in the Matching Grant Program. Extra items such as cell phone service may be purchased with the $200 per month cash assitance. See Matching Grant info below:

Is the Matching Grant Program all its cracked up to be?

FY2014 Matching Grant Guidelines

pjslife said

June 23, 2014 at 2:02 am

Thanks for this information; it is not easy to find. I am friends with someone that was granted asylum 3-4 weeks ago and is receiving ‘resettlement’ services from a VOLAG. I haven’t been able to find out if he is entitled to the same services as refugees or if his are different because he came here as an asylum seeker. He was placed in a studio apartment with non-working air conditioning in 100 degree heat. After one week of me supporting him talking to his caseworker, I went with him to the leasing office and we were able to move him that day. He was given a twin bed with no sheets. No other furniture or lamps. He had some kitchen items but not much. I don’t think he’s received any clothing from them. He kept asking his caseworker about furniture for his apartment and was told he “might” get a table and chairs. We provided him with sheets, a nightstand, 2 lamps, a can opener, and 2 pieces of wall art. He was told he can’t receive cell phone assistance because he is in the “Match Grant” program. He has not been able to find out exactly what services he should be receiving, or what items they are required to give him. If it hadn’t been for me, he’d be sleeping on a bare mattress in a hot, dark apartment with only a kitchen or bathroom light providing light. To me it seems he has slipped through the cracks. Read more here

Posted in asylees, housing, housing, substandard, IRC, Matching Grant program, ORR, Phoenix, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Israel sent 14 Eritreans back to their country of origin “voluntarily”

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 7, 2013

return

Eric Schwartz the former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration has finally taken a public stance against Israel’s treatment of asylum seekers. Although he does not seem too worried by Israel’s new border fence to keep out legitimate asylum seekers and refugees, he writes in defense of those who are already in Israel. Last month Israel sent 14 Eritreans back to their country of origin. The Eritreans had to sign a form indicating they were returning “voluntarily,” or else face years in detention in Israel. An op-ed in the Washington Post explains more:

The Israeli government sent 14 Eritreans back to their country of origin last month after they formally abandoned their requests to remain in Israel. Many more such returns are expected. Israel is seeking to address its refugee challenges by promoting the fiction that it hosts few, if any, Africans fleeing persecution, only “infiltrators” and “illegal work migrants.” The action is a troubling departure from Israel’s proud tradition of refugee protection.

Since its founding in 1948, the state of Israel has guaranteed that Jews would never again have to flee persecution with no place to find safety. Israel championed the rights of all refugees, and Israeli officials helped draft the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and supported its 1967 Protocol, which together protect the rights of people around the world escaping persecution. This sympathy is rooted in not only the Holocaust but also thousands of years of Jewish history and religious tradition. The Jewish Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament, admonishes the faithful to “love the stranger as thyself, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” In the contemporary language of international refugee law, this command is expressed in an obligation not to return asylum seekers to countries where they would face persecution… Read more here 

See other posts on this subject here.

Posted in Assistant Secretary of the PRM, asylees, Eritrean | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Greek Prime Minister calls asylum-seekers a “disease”

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2012

Greek authorities have detained over 6,000 refugees fleeing murderous dictators in adjacent countries and seeking political asylum in the country. The Greek government is trying to vilify the people seeking help without by carefully doing little to identify legitimate refugees meriting protection. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has attempted to dehumanize the refugees in the public’s mind by terming the asylum seekers a “disease”. An article at the Greek Reporter explains:

ATHENS – An ongoing sweep that has taken more than 6,000 immigrants into custody in search of people in Greece unlawfully has been condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International, joining a chorus of Leftist Greek political parties and organizations who also criticized the action.

The Greek authorities must halt a mass police crackdown on irregular migrants and allow for effective access to asylum-seeking procedures to those in need of international protection,” Amnesty International said on Aug. 9, adding that it was concerned that what it called such a massive and discriminatory operation would fuel further attacks against immigrants, which are on the rise, and xenophobia in the country…

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has made a priority of going after illegal immigrants which he said were a “disease” afflicting Greece…

The Greek Council of Refugees said it understood and appreciated Greece’s right to protect its borders but said that this could not override its obligations under European and international law to respect the rights of refugees seeking political asylum…

Amnest International said the sweep, under the code name Xenios Zeus,  as being conducted without any precautions to identify refugees meriting protection from other migrants… Read more here

Posted in asylees, left-wing, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

African refugee apartment firebombed in Jerusalem; four injured

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 4, 2012

Once again we see the consequences of the hate rhetoric and incitement emanating from the right-wing coalition leadership in Israel. Knesset Members have attended anti-African rallies in south Tel Aviv since 2010. Last year people began attacking migrants. In late April and early May of this year, several homes and a kindergarten were firebombed. Then two weeks ago a mob rampaged through south Tel Aviv attacking black people at random (including a black Israeli of Ethiopian origin). Now, an apartment in Jerusalem in which ten Eritrean asylum seekers were sleeping was firebombed at 3am last night. Apparently the firebomb was directed at the apartment’s sole entry/exit, indicating the assailants’ intent to kill the occupants. At least four refugees suffered injuries from smoke inhalation and burns while trying to extinguish the blaze. The assailants left behind a graffiti message to get “out of the neighborhood.” An article in the Los Angeles Times explains:

JERUSALEM — The wave of violence against African refugees in Israel hit Jerusalem on Monday morning with the firebombing of an apartment where 10 Eritrean asylum-seekers were living.

At least four refugees suffered injuries from smoke inhalation and burns while trying to put out the blaze, officials said. The assailants were not apprehended and left behind a graffiti message to get “out of the neighborhood,” according to police.

The attack is the latest in string of violence against Africans in Israel…

… critics say recent statements by some officials about deporting or imprisoning refugees have encouraged the backlash. One lawmaker recently called on Israeli soldiers to shoot any refugees attempting to cross the border with Egypt.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has called the refugees “criminals” and suggested, without providing evidence, that they are responsible for raping many Israeli women… Read more here

In the time leading up to the violence members of the right-wing coalition leadership have called for African migrants to be “sent away”, termed the migrants a “cancer”, exclaimed that ”All human rights activists should be imprisoned and transported to camps…”, and “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man,” according to a posting at +972blog. A member of the Knesset (parliament) from a non-coalition party, which largely supports the rightist government leadership, went so far as to say, “Anyone that penetrates Israel’s border should be shot, a Swedish tourist, Sudanese from Eritrea, Eritreans from Sudan, Asians from Sinai. Whoever touches Israel’s border – shot.”

Posted in asylees, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

HIAS finally speaks up for African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 30, 2012

It was in February that this blog asked when US refugee resettlement agencies would speak out against the Israeli government’s increasing campaign of hatred against African asylum seekers. Now, three months later, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has finally issued a statement condemning the incitement. An article at JTA has the story:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — More U.S. Jewish organizations are condemning anti-African migrant riots in Tel Aviv.

Among those weighing in on last week’s riots during a protest against the large numbers of African migrants living in the city were the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the New Israel Fund, the American Jewish Committee, J Street and the National Council of Jewish Women.

“Some Israeli politicians and leaders have characterized the migrants in negative terms, referring to them as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘occupiers,’ and the Israeli government itself has at times threatened to start mass deportations,” HIAS said in its statement. “Such harmful characterizations have continued even in the context of the government’s condemnation of the xenophobic riots.”… Read more here

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Dorit Eldar-Avidan, who teaches at the Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University, writes in Haaretz about the striking similarities – hatred of the other, the stranger and the weak – between pre-Holocaust Europe and the abuse of asylum seekers in Israel:

…Mass demonstrations, stiff-arm salutes, the shouting, incitement, frenzied rioting, smashing of windows, humiliation, marking of stores and homes, violence, deportation. These were the ultimate existential threats that touched my life because they had blighted the lives of my parents, their parents, and our whole family.

And now the existential threat is here, in my own home. It is in the front yard of the first Hebrew city, among the demonstrators calling for deportation…

…To my horror, I find myself on the side of evil, the side of the rioters…these are the people who are supposed to be my own brothers, the ones who are supposed to be on my side of the equation, those who supposedly share with me a common future and heritage, a culture and historical memory. They are on the side that smashes and curses and attacks and whips itself up into a frenzy…

…It is easy to cling to sociological explanations, to talk about years of hardship and feelings of discrimination in Tel Aviv, about the distorted interpretation of nationalism in Jerusalem.

But are these not the very same excuses and explanations for what happened “there”? Unemployment, hardship, envy of the other, national aspirations – these were what encouraged the forces of evil and allowed blame to be cast upon the Communists, the Gypsies, the Jews…

…And they are not alone, these marchers and screamers, these rioters and kindergarten-torchers, these window-smashers and cursers, and this is not just “the street.” During the celebrations in Jerusalem they received support from most of the Israelis, by the government and the mayor. In Tel Aviv-Jaffa they received the backing from mayors of six more cities, led by the mayor of Tel Aviv, and they are not ashamed to publish ads calling for imprisonment and deportation…

…Where did they learn this, all these recruiters of hatred and evil? What did they forget from their history classes, from the individual and collective memories of the darkest period in Jewish history, as they made their way to these stages and stormy streets?

It is the same hatred of the other, the stranger and the weak that is being directed against Sudanese refugees, Eritreans, labor migrants, or Palestinians…the shouts of “Cancer among us” directed at African refugees. Hatred is hatred. It is poisoned and it poisons those who hate… Read more here

Posted in asylees, HIAS, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Second apartment firebombing in south Tel Aviv Shapira neighborhood

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 6, 2012

There has now been a second series of firebombings in the Shapira neighborhood in south Tel-Aviv. Last week there was a series of three Molotov-cocktail firebombings of African migrants in the same neighborhood. In recent months the conservative led Israeli government has attempted to incite fear and hostility toward the African migrants. An article in Haaretz has more:

Two firebombs were hurled on Saturday night at a house in south Tel Aviv. No injuries were reported, but police are investigating whether the incident is connected to a similar attack a week and a half ago that targeted African residents…

…Tension between the long-standing Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv and the foreign refugees, asylum seekers and labor migrants now living alongside them, is not new. According to the Interior Ministry’s population registry, in 2011 more than 17,000 unauthorized foreign nationals – mostly from Sudan and Eritrea – sneaked into Israel through the border with Egypt. After their identities are checked at Ketziot Detention Center, most are bused to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station area, in the south of the city.

City officials estimate that around 40,000 labor migrants and more than 20,000 asylum seekers live in south Tel Aviv. Most live in the disadvantaged Shapira, Hatikva, Neve Sha’anan and Kiryat Shalom neighborhoods, as well as the area surrounding the bus station. Read more here

Posted in asylees, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Matching Grant monitoring findings – Heartland Alliance in Chicago

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 30, 2012

The said purpose of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR’s) Matching Grant Program (MG) is to place refugee clients in jobs which will enable their household units to meet self-sufficiency within 120 to 180 days (in this case “self-sufficiency” is defined as not accessing public cash assistance, although the household units may use other forms of welfare, e.g. SNAP/food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, etc.). The MG supposedly works to speed up the process of self-sufficiency by offering programs, support, and incentives to refugees, making the transition to self-sufficiency faster and easier. Its called “Matching Grant” because participating agencies (private contractors) agree to match the ORR grant with cash and in-kind contributions (goods and services) from the “community”. The ORR awards $2 for every $1 raised by the refugee resettlement agency from non-federal sources – including state and local support, United Way contributions, and in-kind support from other local and volunteer organizations – up to a maximum of $2,200 in federal funds per refugee. So, self-sufficiency is the goal, but what are the results?

The Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights refugee resettlement agency in Chicago is one of the contractors that the ORR monitored to assess how well resettlement agencies are helping refugees using the Matching Grant money. In the past Heartland Alliance’ use of US Department of State refugee grant money, as well as a human trafficking grant from the US Department of Justice, left much to be desired. Now, it seems that a ORR MG Program Analyst noted deficiencies in Heartland Alliance’s use of the MG program grant as well, according to a newly released 2005 inspection of the agency:

Case Notes – …The reviewer found little detail of services being provided, particularly in cases where clients did not become self-sufficient…

Asylee Payments – Some asylee cases were found to be missing required monthly payments…

Housing Provision – ORR observed a number of cases [where] full rental payments were not provided for the required time period, although needed. This forced clients to supplement the rent payments with their MG cash…

Job Development – The reviewer found little evidence of true job developments on the part of [Heartland Alliance]. The program employment outcomes appear to be the result of fairly intense case management coupled with relatively independent clients who find their own jobs. In cases where clients have a family or a strong community base to assist in the employment search, this system seems adequate in assisting clients to become self-sufficient. However, few to no modifications to that procedure were evident in dealing with free cases [refugees with no local family or ethnic community support] that do not have a strong community base to assist, or other instances where such assistance is necessary. Such sub-par employment services were particularly evident in low English level refugee clients. The [Heartland Alliance] employment rate for CY2004 was 50%. USCRI national average for CY2004 was 85%; the national MG average was 72%… Read more here

This last figure seems to point to a problem at Heartland Alliance and not MG Program weaknesses. Yet, it also shows how dependent government inspectors are on contractors’ own written records in assessing compliance with government grants. Aside from the problems noted, what comes to mind is to what degree the contractor’s written records match refugee clients’ reports about services received, however, the inspection report shows no comments from the clients (as opposed to the State Department’s reviews of refugee resettlement grantees).

Nevertheless, though the national average for refugee employment in the MG program was 82% that year, Heartland Alliance’s refugee clients in MG only achieved a 50% employment rate. Much of that 50% appears to have been refugees finding employment on their own or with the help of family or community.

Posted in asylees, Chicago, economic self-sufficiency, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, Heartland Alliance, Matching Grant program, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Human rights supporters protest hurling of Molotov cocktails at asylum seekers in Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 28, 2012

***UPDATE*** — April 29, 2012, Tel Aviv Police arrest suspect

Attacks on African asylum seekers in Israel continued with a series of Molotov cocktails thrown at apartments where the asylum seekers live, including an apartment used as a daycare center for children, in the Shapira neighborhood in south Tel-Aviv. The government buses the Africans to this disadvantaged neighborhood (site of Tel-Aviv’s bus station) after they have illegally crossed the border from Egypt. Now, some of the other inhabitants of the neighborhood, instead of addressing the government’s actions, are blaming the asylum seekers. In response. Israeli human rights supporters have rallied in support of the asylum seekers. (The goal of the asylum system in Israel under the current government is to reject as many applicants as possible. Those who stay in Israel are subject to confinement and official repression, e.g. targeting by police). An article at Ynetnews.com has the story:

Some 200 social activists on Friday protested in Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood after Molotov cocktails were thrown at four apartments where African asylum seekers reside, including an apartment used as a daycare center for children.

Maya, one of the activists who rallied in support of the asylum seekers, said: “We came here to try to calm the spirits down, and help the victims of these attacks feel that there are other people who do not carry messages of hate.”

Another activist noted that Thursday’s incident “stemmed from a feeling of frustration and helplessness harbored by the residents of the neighborhood, who are rightfully angry at the government for neglecting their neighborhood. But on the other hand there are the refugees, who are also suffering.

“This area is becoming hell,” the activist noted, adding that “the two sides need to level their criticism at those who are responsible, instead of blaming each other. The government needs to give alternatives and address these problems – otherwise the situation will deteriorate,” he said.

Shapira resident Lior Levy said he came out to show solidarity with the refugees. “Many of the residents demand to have them deported, mainly for racist reasons. These are helpless people. This neighborhood was forsaken in the hands of racist groups like the KKK, who wish to terrorize innocent people.

Baso, 26, from Sudan, said he does not believe the police will do anything because “they think in the same manner as the people who did it. They probably think we shouldn’t be here,” he said… Read more here

Also, Haaretz reports that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at African migrants at a Shapira neighborhood park.

Posted in asylees, children, police, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changes to Maine law prevent lawful permanent residents access to Medicaid

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 30, 2011

**Clarification** — Refugees (they may apply to become Lawful Permanent Residents after one year in the US) are exempt from this new rule, although other Lawful Permanent Residents are not exempted (e.g. refugees’ family members who immigrate via family member status), except for pregnant women and children (those under age 21) . See January 5, 2012 Sun Journal article.

Changes to Maine law governing its Medicaid program (MaineCare), sold to voters by Gov. Paul LePage as a way to save money, are now preventing lawful permanent residents from access to Medicaid during their first 5 years (this does not affect refugees access to Medicaid during their first 8 months in the US). The changes also scapegoats, and singles out for exclusion, people waiting on decisions to their asylum applications. All of these people are poor, and many are elderly, disabled or frail, and have serious health care needs. An Op-ed in the Portland Press Herald details the case:

In October, about 500 legal immigrants, mostly living in Portland and Lewiston, lost their health insurance coverage, which had been provided through MaineCare.

The change in law affects lawful permanent residents who haven’t had that status for at least five years, as well as asylum seekers who have a pending application with the federal government.

Just like refugees, many of these folks have escaped atrocities in their own country or faced persecution based on their race, religion or political beliefs.

Now they are being singled out again…

…While the decision to eliminate health insurance coverage was sold as a way to save money by Gov. Paul LePage, that will not be the end result. 

This insensitive change in the law merely shifts and hides costs, while leaving 500 people in our communities at risk of reduced access to health care.

All of these individuals are poor, and many are elderly, disabled or frail. 

Many have serious health care needs, and in many cases, the community supports that do exist are unable to meet their serious health care needs when they become uninsured. 

The cost will fall back on the state either way…

But perhaps, even more distressing, the policy doesn’t really accomplish its stated goal, which is to reduce costs.

While the money to pay for MaineCare for 500 people is removed from the state budget, the need for medical care doesn’t disappear.

It is shifted onto communities and health care providers such as clinics and hospitals.

Instead of receiving assistance through MaineCare, which has cost controls and a focus on preventative care, they are forced to rely upon emergency rooms, where the cost of care is the highest… Read more here

and

…Many of the new immigrants in Maine fall into a category described as asylum seekers because they are individuals waiting for an asylum decision from the federal government. As a result of new state laws, many of these individuals can no longer get help from the safety net programs administered by the state.

Being a person seeking asylum in a new country is already an uncertain time. It’s a time of limbo and people in this position may need some assistance from others until the immigration process grants the permits necessary to be able to get a paid job. It’s a time that calls for compassion… Read more here

Also see Maine Equal Justice Partners handout, here.

Posted in asylees, health, legislation, Maine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Refugee roulette” in U.S. asylum courts

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 3, 2011

If you’ve ever been stopped by a cop or had your day in court you’ve probably run up against the problem in which mere mortals, with all their biases and potential for failure, wield enormous power. If they woke up in a bad mood, for instance, the rest of us are going to feel their pain. Asylees face a similar phenomena in our courts in what is known as “refugee roulette”. Some of the judges seem to have almost never heard an asylum story that they didn’t find believable. Others rarely find the stories believable. It turns out that the difficult problem to get around here is the need we have for someone to decide if the asylee’s story is believable – it comes downs to that when actual proof is unavailable. So far we haven’t been able to invent a machine that can make this determination any better. An article in NY Daily News explains how the asylum court works in New York City:

For immigrants seeking asylum, winning the right to stay in the United States is often a game of chance that comes down to one thing: which judge hears their tale.

A report out this month shows two New York immigration judges with strikingly different records on granting safe haven – illustrating what experts call “refugee roulette.”

“One of the most important issues you ask, if they’re in court already, is, ‘Who’s your judge?'” said Zachary Sanders, a New York immigration lawyer.

At 26 Federal Plaza, lawyers hope for Judge Terry Bain, whose asylum acceptance rate is higher than that of any jurist in the nation. From October 2005 through this May, Bain approved 94.5% of applicants, well above the national rate of 46.8%, according to a new report by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse…

…Judge Alan Vomacka sits in the same court, but he’s accepted just 28.3% of the cases he’s seen…

...Asylum law requires that immigrants prove they are fleeing persecution. They must give evidence or provide a reasonable explanation for why they can’t show proof. And they must be consistent. Some judges are more strict than others about demanding actual documentation. Approval ultimately depends on whether or not the judge believes an immigrant is telling the truth.

“Judges are people,” said Sanders. “You have to put yourself in the position of this person. You have to see things through their eyes, and then you have to decide if they’re lying or not.”

The system has come under fresh scrutiny after Nafissatou Diallo, who accused former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape, admitted she embellished her asylum application.

“The system is created to give the benefit of the doubt to the asylum seeker,” said Jason Dzubow, a lawyer who blogs as The Asylumist. “On the one hand, it encourages fraud. But how many legitimate asylum seekers are you willing to send back to their countries, where they face persecution, in order to weed out fraud?”… Read more here

In case your tempted to think that it all evens out, by allowing individual judges of various backgrounds to use their own education and experience in deciding someone’s fate, for the judge who believes almost every asylee it means that crooks and schemers get through — not good for us. Then for the judge that almost never believes the asylees, we end up throwing good people back to the wolves in their countries — definitely not what America is all about.

So, why don’t we have panels decide these cases, e.g a panel of three judges? Wouldn’t that help to even-out judges using their personal education and experience in determining truth? If justice is the goal, this might get the best results.

Posted in asylees, court, Dept. of Justice, reform | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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