Archive for the ‘Burma/Myanmar’ Category
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 Republiccovers 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 | 2 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 »
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2012
Indianapolis has become a major hub for Chin refugees from Myanmar. Now, Chin refugees are also making Columbus a favored destination for settlement. Chin has more than 40 dialects, which can make it difficult for schools and agencies to find interpreters. Although in this case it is the Lai Chin who are settling in Columbus’ Far West Side. An article in The Columbus Dispatch explains:
…during a visit to Columbus, Hai Vung Lian was impressed with what he saw. With more research, he discovered that the city — particularly the Far West Side — had a lot to offer his countrymen and women who needed a home: a steady job market and affordable housing near good schools, public transportation and hospitals.
“I thought we could start a community here,” Lian, 47, said of the Chin population, who have fled the southern Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma.
He encouraged Chin families living in refugee settlements outside Myanmar to start anew in Columbus. What started as a trickle in 2007 has become a steady stream of Chin refugees.
Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus has placed 137 Chins since October 2007, Executive Director Angie Plummer said.
Another 13 are scheduled to arrive before the end of November.
One problem with resettlement efforts has been the language barrier. Chin has more than 40 dialects, making it difficult for schools and agencies to find interpreters…
Lai Chin is the common tongue for the 61 Chin students enrolled in South-Western…
According to the United Nations refugee agency, 8,562 refugees from Myanmar were resettled in the United States between January and June this year. More than 1,300, including the Chin, have been resettled in Ohio since 2008.
The largest community of Myanmar refugees is in Indianapolis. There, 3,909 refugees have been settled after arriving from overseas. Because of others moving within the U.S., the Indianapolis population has grown to about 9,000, about 6,400 of them Chin refugees, said Elaisa Vahnie, the executive director of the Burmese-American Community Institute in Indianapolis.
Vahnie said Indianapolis, like Columbus, is a transportation hub where unskilled workers can find warehouse and manufacturing jobs… Read more here
Posted in Chin, Columbus, Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), Indianapolis, language, refugee magnet city, schools, secondary migration, refugee | Tagged: Chin, Columbus, Lai, refugees, resettlement | 3 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2012
For some reason a lot of refugees in Indianapolis who don’t have basic items that they were supposed to have received when they were resettled, such as beds and couches. Is there a continuing influx of secondary migrants from other states or is the resettlement agency in Indianapolis not giving refugees these basic items? Now, Storehouse Ministries, a group created to help needy families with everything from furniture to clothing to hygiene items, has stepped in to help. An article at the Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Indi. – near Indianapolis) explains the refugees’ needs:
WHITELAND, Ind. — Inside the headquarters of Storehouse Ministries, men, women and children rushed through the open warehouse with their lists in hand.
They had 15 minutes to pick out the items they needed. Some went to the furniture, inspecting gently used couches or small desks where their children could do their homework.
Others picked through bins of soap, shampoo, razors and deodorant. A few started picking up jackets and sweaters before winter set in...
Storehouse Ministries was created to help needy families with everything from furniture to clothing to hygiene items. Organizers focused on the items that government assistance and local food pantries don’t provide — mattresses, toothbrushes, diapers, blankets…
Most of the ministry’s clients have come from the Chin refugee community, Mills said. Organizers had contacted pastors from throughout the south side. When the Storehouse opened, pastors and members within the group flooded it…
Teri Shehorn, a member at Grace Assembly of God, was drawn to this idea of a new way of helping people. She volunteers regularly to sort donations, helps guide families through the warehouse and bags up their goods when they’re done shopping…
“A lot of people are really benefiting by getting things like couches and mattresses. You’d be surprised how many people are sleeping on the floor, without the ability to buy any kind of bedding,” Shehorn said…
“It’s so important for people who have to start over. Maybe they had a fire, or they’ve just come to this country. They wouldn’t have a place to sleep otherwise,” Helke said… Read more here
Posted in beds, Catholic Charities Indianapolis, Chin, furnishings, lack of, Indianapolis | Tagged: beds, Burma, Chin, furnishings, Indianapolis, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement, Storehouse Ministries | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 6, 2012
Using a FOIA request I just found another government inspection report for the International Center in Bowling Green. Refugees have reported problems with this agency and a Matching Grant program inspection report uncovered more problems.
According to this December 2011 ORR inspection report a refugee couple from Myanmar who had arrived in Bowling Green two months earlier said that they had not received any job referral services or referral to other training. Their orientation – or lack of orientation – left them with no information on how to open a bank account, how to use medical insurance and other orientation issues. Another family from Myanmar reported receiving limited employment assistance from the International Center as well. The family also reported that they were unable to read letters sent from the school – indicating a lack of help with translation.
Tyson Food Company has hired refugees for jobs that start at an hourly rate of $9.45/hr. Refugees spend 14 hours a day in shift time, long-distance transportation and waiting for transportation after their shifts. Tyson reports that there is rarely follow-up from the International Center.
A stakeholders meeting revealed a “major communication gap” between the International Center and the local Owensboro health department and school district. The health department said that this resulted in arriving refugees only receiving a standard physical examination and not the full refugee health screening. Both the health department and the school district reported that the International Center had not given adequate warning of refugees arriving in the community. Both of these institutions, as well as stakeholders in Bowling Green, expressed surprise that the resettlement program is an eight month program with up to five years of services, apparently having been told that the program was a 90 day process (they apparently get the same standard line that the resettlement agencies give to the media).
Stakeholders in Bowling Green pointed out that the refugees were not fully utilizing mainstream programs such as Head Start and senior programs which offer transportation and meals for seniors. The local Chamber of Congress had to tell the International Center’s board to reach out to the community.
At a meeting with refugees in Bowling Green the refugees reported poor quality interpretation services at the International Center. They mentioned that transportation in Bowling Green is almost impossible by bus. They reported that the International Center strongly encouraged them to take jobs at Tyson and Perdue. Perdue is not a good place to work – the pay is low and there is no recourse to the treatment the refugees received there. The company gave terminations without cause and without due process.
The ORR monitoring team visit also revealed that the Kentucky Office for Refugees, under state refugee coordinator Becky Jordan, was not conducting adequate consultation in Owensboro or Bowling Green. ORR had to recommend that the Kentucky Office for Refugees provide the International Center with technical assistance for coordination with service providers that work with refugees.
Another recommendation was to help refugees find work locally to avoid the four-hour commutes and be able to spend more time with family, as well as be able to care for sick children if both parents are commuting to jobs at Tyson or Perdue. It’s not clear that the International Center has done anything to respond to this recommendation since the City of Bowling Green is now having to make its own effort to help refugees with finding local jobs (see today’s article at Bowling Green Daily News).
By the way, in the curious arrangement of contractors and government oversight agencies in the US refugee resettlement program, Becky Jordan is not only the Executive Director of Catholic Charities Refugee Services in Louisville, a refugee resettlement private contractor, and Kentucky’s state refugee coordinator, she is also part of ORR’s site visit teams that inspect other refugee resettlement contractors. For example, Ms. Jordan was part of ORR site visit team that inspected Louisiana’s refugee resettlement program in February 2011. Therefore, sometimes Ms. Jordan is inspecting her colleagues at resettlement contractors in other states and some day maybe one of them will be inspecting her agency.
Posted in Bowling Green, Burma/Myanmar, community/cultural orientation, employment abuses, employment services, International Center in Bowling Green (Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association), language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, local officials, failure to notify, meatpacking industry, ORR, public/private partnership, transportation, Wilson-Fish Program | Tagged: Becky Jordan, Bowling Green, International Center, Kentucky, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, Perdue, refugees, resettlement, Tyson | 2 Comments »