Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘asylees’ Category

German security guards caught abusing refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 7, 2014

oppressionContracted security guards at an asylee detention center in Germany have been caught abusing a refugee. A picture shows a guard standing over a handcuffed refugee and pressing his boot into the man’s neck. Other refugees at the center have made allegations of related abuse. An article at the BBC has more:

The German media have expressed outrage over one alleged incident
Police in Germany are investigating reports refugees were repeatedly abused by security guards at an asylum centre.

According to the AP news agency, police raided the centre in the western town of Burbach after a local journalist received a DVD allegedly showing guards abusing an asylum seeker.

Detectives have released a photo which they say came from one security officer’s mobile phone.
The image is said to show a guard assaulting a refugee.

In the picture, the handcuffed refugee lies on the floor while the guard stands over him pressing his boot into his neck.

Another guard stands nearby as both appear to pose for the picture, which has been widely circulated in the German press.

“It’s a photo one would associate with Guantanamo Bay,” one police officer was quoted as saying. “Both security guards are grinning.”…

Police say other people living at the centre have made complaints about abuse… Read more here

Posted in abuse, asylees | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Central American minors may be able to acquire refugee status

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 4, 2014

teensHealth and Human Services via its ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) office is releasing $9 million in leftover funds for use in legal representation of 1222 (2600 as part of a larger program) of the about 60,000 unaccompanied Central American minors who crossed the southern border since last January. The law does not need that these foreign nationals, here illegally, have legal representation. Almost half of minors with attorneys have been allowed to stay in the country, while only 10 percent of those without representation were allowed to stay, according to an analysis of cases through June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Of the cases heard from July 18 to September 2 more than 90 percent were marked as instances where the child had no legal representation. The court cases which will decide whether the minors are to be deported or be given refugee or other legal status to stay here. A U.S. District Court Judge has put off on ruling on the core issue of whether these minor plaintiffs are entitled, under the Fifth Amendment, to counsel at government expense. An article at CBS Los Angeles explains:

SANTA ANA (AP) — The Obama administration is spending $4 million on lawyers for unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings…

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said on Tuesday that it is the first time the office that oversees programs for unaccompanied immigrant children will provide money for direct legal representation.

The grants to two organizations are part of a bigger $9 million project that aims to provide lawyers to 2,600 children. The move comes after the number of Central American children arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border more than doubled this past year, many of them fleeing violence… Read more here

An article at Politico also explains the case and the legal issues:

The battle over legal counsel for child migrants moved on two fronts as a federal judge first weighed-in Monday and the Department of Health and Human Services next announced its own initiative Tuesday to try to assure more representation for the minors.

With the 2014 fiscal year literally hours away from ending, HHS said Tuesday it has committed $4.2 million in leftover funds to support the efforts to secure counsel for the children. Republicans in the House have blocked prior efforts by the Justice Department to use its own funds for this purpose. But HHS said it has sufficient authority to make the awards to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

HHS estimated that the funds are sufficient to provide legal representation for about 1222 children, with an initial focus on eight cities including Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix. That’s a fraction of the total number of minors in the immigration court system after the record border crossings earlier this year. But the step is significant and comes as migrant rights attorneys are trying to elevate the same issue in federal court in Seattle… Read more here

Some argue that refugee status may apply if the minors face violence back home due to their membership in a particular social group, e.g. those who will not join drug gangs. The 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as any person who:

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The United States Refugee Act of 1980 defines a refugee as any person who is:

…outside their country of residence or nationality, or without nationality, and is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

In fact, a new White House plan would allow some Central American children to come to the United States legally with refugee status, according to an AP article. The plan would allow Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants who are legally present in the U.S. to ask for refugee status for child relatives still back at home. Also, the White House is calling for the admission of 70,000 refugees in fiscal year 2015, and lists people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as eligible for admission to the U.S. as refugees “if otherwise qualified.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is initiating a program to give refugee status to some young people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Under the program, immigrants from those countries who are lawfully in the United States will be able to request that child relatives still in those three countries be resettled in the United States as refugees. The program would establish in-country processing to screen the young people to determine if they qualify to join relatives in the U.S…

The program would not provide a path for minors to join relatives illegally in the United States, and would not apply to minors who have entered the country illegally.

Instead, it aims to set up an orderly alternative for dealing with young people who otherwise might embark on a dangerous journey to join their families in the United States… Read more here

Posted in asylees, court, Dept. of Justice, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors, USCCB, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Republican governors go on attack in states receiving fewest Central American immigrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2014


It seems that the states with the fewest immigrant children and young adults of the 30,000 that have arrived since January are the ones making the biggest racket over their placement by the ORR. Republican governors of these states have gone on a media blitz complaining about everything from the speculative diseases these immigrants have to claims of so-called potential increases in crime. An article at The Daily Reflector covers North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory:

Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a media blitz lately, with four news conferences in the last few days, one to fear-monger about refugee children…

McCrory said that the children relocated to North Carolina after fleeing dangerous and abuse situations in Central American countries did not receive health screenings and may be a threat to North Carolina children. He sounded ominous warnings about the lack of background checks of the sponsors providing the children their new home. But the children do undergo health screenings and the sponsors do undergo background checks. McCrory could have found that out by simply visiting the website of the office of Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

When confronted with the information that background checks are done on the sponsors of the children, McCrory said they were not the kind of background checks that need to be done. He didn’t provide any clarification and seemed caught off guard by pointed questions about the remarks he made about the immigrant children the day before… Read here

Posted in asylees, children, Guatemalan, health, North Carolina, ORR, right-wing, schools, teenagers, teens, unaccompanied minors, young adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Resettlement services for asylees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2014


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


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 »


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