Archive for the ‘Burma/Myanmar’ Category
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2013
Tyson Foods, Inc. Plans to employ about 250 Karen refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro, NC. The World Relief resettlement agency offices in High Point and Raleigh will be will be directing refugees to Tyson “to hire them in mass.” This seems to be a prescription for employer abuse when refugees are not treated as individuals with varying levels of employability and various employment area interests but are instead directed in mass to employers in distant and sometimes isolated locations. I note that the State Department resettlement contract documents signed by World Relief require individual assessments via individual case management. How will Tyson treat these people when it knows it can order up more large batches of refugee workers to replace them if it wishes?
A local church official says he was told that Tyson has carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri. Tyson has also lured refugees in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kentucky. Tyson has a troubling history in their treatment of Hmong refugees as well. An article in the Wilkes Journal Patriot has details about the plans for Wilkesboro:
Tyson Foods Inc. has announced plans to employ Burmese refugees at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro.
Tyson officials shared the plans with about 30 local businesses, public schools, town and county government and law enforcement leaders and others during a meeting Tuesday at the Tyson technical services building on N.C. 268 West in Wilkesboro.
The [Karen] refugees are originally from Myanmar…
About 250 over two years
Worth Sparkman, Tyson public relations manager, said later that the company anticipated hiring about 250 refugees over the next two years to work at the processing complex in Wilkesboro…
People who attended the meeting, which wasn’t announced to the public or media, said Tyson officials indicated that it was hard to predict how many Burmese refugees might come to Wilkes to work at the Tyson complex and when.
Local officials comment
They said Tyson officials told them the newcomers would come as families and would contribute to the local economy with the money they spend here, including for housing. Refugees start paying U.S. and state taxes when they become employed.
People who attended the meeting said Tyson officials also talked about the responsibility of Christians to reach out and help the refugees and about the tradition of coming to America for a better life…
Dr. Marty Hemric, Wilkes school superintendent, attended the meeting and said state funding for the school system’s English as a second language program would increase if the number of students who don’t speak English increased.
Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew also attended the meeting and said his biggest concern was finding interpreters for his department’s interactions with the refugees. “My concern is being able to bridge the communication gap,” he said.
Wilkes County Manager John Yates, Wilkes Department of Social Services Director Bill Sebastian, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland and other local officials are calling officials in communities elsewhere in the country who have experienced an influx of refugees for insight on what to expect here…
Involvement of churches
The Rev. Steve Gouge, director of missions of the Brushy Mountain Baptist Association, said Tyson officials contacted and met with him Thursday to discuss their interest in having the association’s churches interact with the refugees…
Gouge…said he was impressed with the plans shared by Tyson officials and said he was told the company carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri…
Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and other large food processors in the U.S. increasingly are turning to refugees from Myanmar, Sudan, Somalia and other countries for a more stable workforce. Tyson Foods processing complexes in Center, Texas; Shelbyville, Tenn., Waterloo, Iowa; and elsewhere each employ hundreds of resettled refugees.
World Relief assists
Tyson and other companies find many of these workers with assistance of nonprofit agencies that have contracts with the U.S. State Department to help refugees in the United States become resettled and self-sufficient…
“Our role as a resettlement agency is to help find homes for them (refugees), help them get their Social Security cards” and address other basic needs, said Andrew Timbie, manager of the World Relief office in High Point.
“We have a team working with employers to hire them in mass. Our goal is to get them employed and to set them up for self-sufficiency.”
Timbie said World Relief staff work with leaders of refugee populations to get the word out about available jobs, such as at the Tyson complex in Wilkesboro...Read more here
Posted in Karen, meatpacking industry, poultry production, Raleigh-Durham, secondary migration, refugee, Wilkesboro, World Relief | Tagged: High Point, Karen, meatpacking, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement, Secondary migrantion, Tyson, Wilkesboro, World Relief | 5 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on September 5, 2013
Refugees have again been displaced by fire at an apartment building. This time it involves 70 Karen refugees from Myanmar resettled to Wichita, Kansas. A Karen man saw fire coming from the roof, dialed 911 and then warned others to leave. He and his family lost all there possessions. An article from The Associated Press has more:
WICHITA — Many of the 70 residents left homeless by a fire at a Wichita apartment complex are refugees from Myanmar and most of them lost everything in the blaze, according to a refugee ministry.
Five people were injured, none critically, when Tuesday’s fire caused an estimated $1.75 million in damage to one of two large buildings at the Ashley Lane Apartments in southeast Wichita. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause.
Shannon Mahan, executive director of the Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry, said eight families comprising 28 people were among those displaced by the fire, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/16Q8VUt).
Saw Moe, one of the refugees, called 911 after finding the roof on fire, then evacuated his family and warned others to leave, Mahan said. Moe and his family lost all their possessions…
Moe was one of thousands of Karen tribal people who fled government persecution in Myanmar…
Dean E. Wolfe, the 9th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wichita, on Tuesday asked the public to help the refugees. He said donations can be sent to a refugee fire fund at the diocese’s office in Topeka. Read more here
Posted in apartment building fires, Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry, housing, Kansas, Karen | Tagged: apartments, Burma, Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry, fire, Karen, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement, safety, Wichita | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2013
In light of the communication problems after the murder of two Karenni refugees at apartment complex in Phoenix in April, the police will now have access to refugee community leaders and interpreters in the communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officers can also carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources. An article in The Arizona Republic explains:
…Two Burmese refugees were stabbed at the Serrano Village Apartments near 28th Avenue and Camelback Road, leaving fellow refugees stunned and afraid.
Ker Reh, 54, and Kay Reh, 24, who are not related, were attacked outside an apartment unit where they were attending a prayer service for a friend who had died of natural causes….
Thousands of Burmese refugees call Phoenix home, and the homicides highlighted the struggles the community faces. Community leaders and the police department are working to overcome some of those issues, such as language barriers and fear of the police…
More than 4,100 Burmese refugees have moved to Arizona since fiscal 1999 with a majority of them — 3,858 — concentrated in apartments around Phoenix…
The main stumbling block for the refugees is their lack of English skills, leaders said. Phoenix police had to call a translator on April 28 to the murder scene to help piece together what had happened.
…many refugees don’t call 911 for help because they can’t speak English.
“The 911 ask many questions so people are scared to call,” said Ray, who taught himself English when he arrived to this country. He spent 20 years in a Thai refugee camp.
Phary Reh, 35, said many of the older refugees also fear the police because of their experiences with them in Thailand and Burma.
“When they are driving and see police, they are scared,” he said. “In their heart, it reminds them of the police in Thailand.”…
Police spokesman Steve Martos said the department also is enhancing its ability to serve the Myanmar refugees.
“This incident helped us address a deficiency as it relates to language barriers,” he said. “We have since worked with the refugee community to find ways we can have access to their community leaders and someone to translate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”…
Now, officers can carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources… Read more here
Posted in Catholic Charities Phoenix, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Karenni, language, Phoenix, police, safety | Tagged: Burmese, catholic charities, interpretation, karenni, murders, Phoenix, refugees, resettlement, Serrano Village Apartments, stabbings | 3 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on June 26, 2013
After a recent visit the US State Department’s director of refugee admissions Larry Bartlett said nothing was unique in Fort Wayne’s refugee resettlement program and nothing was out-of-place. The local resettlement contractor to the US government, Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne, meets each year with other community organizations involved in resettlement efforts to decide what the local capacity is for the number of refugees they can accept (some resettlement agencies have told me that they have no control over the numbers and have to take the refugees that their national affiliate sends to them). Bartlett says that they try to make sure that the first placement is one that will be permanent because services refugees get from State Department funded agencies are difficult to transfer in some cases. He also claims resettlement officials overseas tell refugees to tell them exactly where they want to go, and where their family members are, to cut refugee secondary migration (movement of refugees away from their primary resettlement site in the US). An article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has the details:
Nothing is unique about Fort Wayne’s refugee resettlement program, according to a U.S. State Department official who recently visited the city.
The local program “is very similar to what we see in most communities,” Larry Bartlett said last week.
Which is a good thing, in his mind.
“Sometimes we visit places that are going well, like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, not just to put out fires,” Bartlett said in an interview just ahead of the U.N. World Refugee Day, which has been observed June 20 each year since 2001.
Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the state department, and Shelly Pitterman, regional director of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, met April 18 with local Burmese refugees, service providers and government officials. It was part of a Midwest tour that included reviews of Burmese refugees living in Indianapolis and Iraqi refugees in Detroit…
Catholic Charities and other community organizations involved in resettlement efforts meet yearly to determine how many new refugees they can serve in a year, Schmidt said. That number was 170 for the current fiscal year and will be the same in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.
…in 2007 and 2008…1,469 refugees, 1,445 of them Burmese, came to Allen County…
“Part of our intent is to place people in such a way that they don’t have to move,” Bartlett said. “We try to make sure that the initial placement is one that will be semipermanent because services they are getting from agencies that are funded by us in some cases are difficult to transfer.”
He said resettlement officials tell refugees, “ ‘Please tell us exactly where you want to go, please tell us where your family members are,’ so we that we can mitigate secondary movement.” Read more here
Posted in Burma/Myanmar, capacity, Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Office of Admissions, secondary migration, refugee | Tagged: Burma, Burmese, fort wayne, Larry Bartlett, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement | 3 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 11, 2013
Five suspects are wanted in the stabbing deaths of two ethnic Karenni men in an argument at a Phoenix, Arizona apartment complex on April 27th. The safety of refugees in many communities in the U.S. where our program resettled them has been a concern of ours for over ten years now. My question is this: if the Language Line is a known tool for communicating in hundreds of languages on short notice, and police today walk with cell phones, why isn’t that method being used in these incidents? Of course refugee resettlement agencies should also issue all refugee cases with a card that lists phone numbers to call in emergencies – including interpreters. Unfortunately many agencies don’t even bother to make sure that their caseworkers give refugees their business cards. An article at The Republic covers the incident:
Police are still searching for five suspects after two people who gathered to help a family mourn the loss of a loved one were stabbed to death at a Phoenix apartment complex Sunday morning, authorities said Monday.
Phoenix police received a 911 call just after midnight of someone being stabbed at an apartment at 2828 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos said. Arriving officers found two men with stab wounds. Both died at the scene.
Witnesses said the people at the apartment were attending a “Nar Ye Nyi Hmut,” which is a Burmese gathering held before a funeral during which relatives and friends stay overnight and offer grief support to a family who recently lost a loved one.
Police suspect that three teenagers on their way to attend the gathering had an altercation with four male teenagers and one female teenager, police said. The teenagers going to the funeral were able to make it to the apartment and explained what happened. The other teens followed.
Two men at the funeral went outside to try to calm down the teenagers who followed the other teens home, police said. The teenagers stabbed the men to death.
Police consulted with translators to determine what happened because of the Burmese language barrier between police and the approximately 40 to 50 people who were inside the apartment, Martos said.
Police have not identified the victims yet.
The apartment complex largely is populated by people from various Asian countries, including Burma, Nepal and Iraq… Read more here
Additional information about the victims and the suspects is found in a Channel 3 report:
…Police have identified the victims as Ker Reh, 54 and Kay Reh, 24…
…With the assistance of translators, investigators learned that three teenagers between 15 and 16 years old were walking to the apartment complex to join friends and family to mourn the loss of a community member when they were confronted by five teenagers who engaged them in an altercation. Martos said the suspects were four Hispanic males and one Hispanic female.
The three teenagers ran to the apartment where 40 to 50 people were gathered and told two men what had occurred and that they were being chased by the suspects.
Martos said the two men stepped outside of the apartment to try to calm the suspects and prevent further altercation. The suspects then began to stab both men.
All five suspects fled the scene on foot.
Witnesses described the weapon as some type of long metal crowbar-like rod. Police have not confirmed the weapon.
Investigators are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the suspects. Anyone with information related to this crime is encouraged to call the Phoenix Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit at 602-262-6141 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS to remain anonymous. Read more here
Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, housing, Karenni, language, men, Phoenix, police, safety, teenagers | Tagged: Burma, Burmese, Camelback Road, karenni, Kay Reh, Ker Reh, Myanmar, Phoenix, refugees, resettlement, stabbing | 4 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 9, 2013
Refugees from Myanmar who moved to Columbus Junction for jobs with Tyson Foods are the subject of an article in The Jamestown Sun. The small town has made efforts to accommodate the new immigrants, although some problems remain. A shortage of rental apartments has meant that some extended families cram into small, unclean apartments and live a “barracks-style lifestyle.” Two refugees have committed suicide and a third was found drowned in a river near the Tyson plant.
...All told, about 400 refugees have descended on [Columbus Junction], and more are arriving by the week to reunite with friends and relatives and work grueling jobs for Tyson. Like other waves of immigrants, they were drawn to this poor, sparsely populated region of southeastern Iowa by the promise of jobs, good schools and welcoming people…
…Tyson and other meatpacking companies have increasingly recruited non-Latino workers in recent years, including Burmese, Sudanese and others, said Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at University of Northern Iowa. Since a 2008 raid of a Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse, where 389 immigrants were arrested, companies have become more careful to avoid hiring employees who may have entered the country illegally, he said….
…Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson denied the company was favoring refugees over others, saying the industry has long attracted immigrants for entry-level jobs that do not require experience or English skills. The makeup of its workforce shifts as new immigrant groups come to the U.S., he said…
…At a recent conference at the University of Iowa, Rick Rustad, a workplace chaplain at the Tyson plant in Waterloo, about 100 miles away, recalled serving as the plant’s “mobile recruit” for Burmese refugees. He drove a passenger bus to meet with Burmese who had settled in different parts of Illinois, where he offered jobs and brought 30 back to Iowa at a time…
…In Columbus Junction, Mickelson said, the first five Burmese workers were hired as part of a recruitment effort in Illinois and later encouraged friends and relatives to apply. Burmese started arriving from Indiana, Texas, Florida and other states where they say jobs were harder to come by…
…Two refugees have committed suicide and a third was found drowned in a river near the Tyson plant, said police Chief Donnie Orr. A shortage of mental health and substance abuse treatment is a problem, Ortiz said.
But refugees and city leaders agree the biggest challenge now is finding housing for the newcomers. City officials say there are hardly any available rental apartments, which go for about $450 a month for three bedrooms.
Some extended families cram into small, unclean apartments and live a “barracks-style lifestyle,” said city attorney Tim Wink, who owns three downtown buildings and rents apartments to two Chin families. The city is worried about safety and sanitation issues, including fire risks, and is drawing up its first-ever rental housing code… Read more here
Posted in Chin, Columbus Junction, housing, meatpacking industry, poultry production, schools, secondary migration, refugee, suicide | Tagged: Burma, Columbus Junction, employment, Iowa, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement, secondary migration, suicide, Tyson | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on April 16, 2013
Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the U.S. State Department will visit Fort Wayne on Thursday. He will also visit local refugee resettlement efforts in Indianapolis and Detroit next week. As usual, the State Department will only meet with “stakeholders” – resettlement agencies, service providers, advocates, Mayor Tom Henry and refugees themselves. The only refugees that State visits are those chosen by the refugee resettlement contractor(s). Although “advocates” are newly listed as stakeholders, as a refugee advocate myself I can tell you that State has never, that I know of, responded to independent advocates with dissenting views or invited them to attend these meetings. Accepting criticism were due is not a skill modeled or practiced by the federal refugee resettlement oversight agencies or their contractors. An article in the Journal-Gazette has more:
FORT WAYNE – Officials for the U.S. State Department and the United Nations will visit Fort Wayne this week to learn more about refugee resettlement efforts.
Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for State, and Shelly Pitterman, regional director of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, plan to meet Thursday with those described by Bartlett as “stakeholders” – resettlement agencies, service providers, advocates, Mayor Tom Henry and refugees themselves.
“We try to go to communities on a regular basis to really try to understand where the nuances are, how communities are coping and how we might, if we can, adjust some of the programs,” Bartlett said from his Washington, D.C., office in a telephone interview last week.
The last time a State Department official came to Fort Wayne to evaluate refugee resettlement services was in 2009. Bartlett also will visit refugee communities in Indianapolis and Detroit next week.
“Part of the responsibility we have is not just to see how our programs are faring but to see how the community is supporting refugees, to see where there are issues, challenges, weaknesses in the programs that we can be helpful with,” Bartlett said.
“We really do see this as a partnership with the community,” he said…
…Eric Schwartz, then an assistant secretary of the State Department, discovered what he called “heartening and dismaying” conditions for newly arriving refugees of various nationalities when he visited Fort Wayne…in 2009…
…Schwartz ended his dispatch by saying the State Department would increase its resettlement grants from $900 to $1,800 for each new refugee, an amount that has since grown to $1,875. Roughly half the money goes for administrative costs of resettlement agencies, Bartlett said, and half pays for rent, food and other necessities for the refugee…
…The State Department has a nationwide ceiling of 18,000 refugee arrivals from East Asia in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30. It expects 17,500 of them to be ethnic minority Burmese who have been living in refugee camps in Malaysia and Thailand.
The department has approved Catholic Charities for 170 refugee resettlements in fiscal 2013. Read more here
We read that the State Department per head refugee resettlement grant had increased, from $1,800 in 2010 to the current $1,875 as it turns out, but this is the first mention I’ve seen in the media. The grant only covers initial resettlement efforts in the U.S. – the first 30-90 days – which the State Department claims they intend as “seed money” for the private resettlement contractors to use for resettlement, with significant private resources supposedly added in. I suppose allowing the contractors to use 50 percent of it for overhead though somewhat defeats the purpose of the “see money” policy, although it may be necessary in instances where they are unable to find private resources to add. Otherwise, wouldn’t you expect that they would use the private funding for overhead and transferring the $1,875 directly to the refugees in goods and services?
The article somewhat confuses the issue of who Burmese are by referring to “ethnic minority Burmese”. The Burmese are actually the ethnic majority group in Myanmar, with minority ethnic groups being the Arakan (aka Rakhine), Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Rohingyas, Shan, Zomi and others. At this blog we now refer to refugees from the country as Myanmar refugees. The Burmese were the group allied with the Japanese in World War II, while the U.S., the U.K. and others allied with the ethnic minority groups.
Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Charities of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, democracy, Detroit area, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government, State Department, UN (United Nations) | Tagged: advocates, catholic charities, Detroit, fort wayne, Indianapolis, Larry Bartlett, refugees, resettlement, stakeholders, State Department, UNHCR | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on April 13, 2013
The death of two refugee children in a recent hit and run accident in Denver stresses the importance of resettlement workers orienting newly arrived refugees to the layout and rules of our communities. In this case the parent was crossing the road with the children where there was not a crosswalk. The family was clients of the ECDC African Community Center. Although many American neighborhoods are still not designed or managed for pedestrian friendliness it remains important that people do the extra walking that may be necessary to cross roads, especially busy ones, only where there are crosswalks. Some refugee clients who have been advised of this are also are not heeding instructions. By the way, this stresses the need for repetition in teaching. People need to hear information several times at least before that information settles into the mind. One time is usually not enough. CBS Denver has the story:
Two children killed in a hit and run crash in Denver last week were laid to rest … The search for the driver in the deadly crash continues.
The SUV struck Zamar Bee and her children, Zamay Kahn, 8, his brother Arzat, 6, near the intersection of 14th and Yosemite. The family was not using the crosswalk when they were struck.
Bee continues to recover from her serious injuries at Denver Health Medical Center.
“As you can imagine she’s not doing well. This is probably the most devastating thing that could happen to a mother,” said ECDC/African Community Center spokeswoman Jennifer Gueddiche…
Police said they’re still looking for the stroller that may have become wedged beneath the SUV. Parts of a stroller were found in the area of 14th and Yosemite but police have not confirmed if those are connected.
The ECDC/African Community Center has created a fund to help Bee with medical expenses and support…
Donations can be made at any Key Bank location under the Zamar Bee support fund. Read more here
Posted in African Community Center (Denver), Burma/Myanmar, children, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, Denver, ECDC, safety | Tagged: African Community Center, children, crosswalk, Denver, ECDC, Ethiopian Community Development Council, hit & run, hit and run, refugees, resettlement | Leave a Comment »