Friends of Refugees

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San Diego police kill Myanmar refugee with mental illness

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 19, 2014

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San Diego police have shot and killed a mentally ill refugee from Myanmar.  The young man’s family called police after he threatened them with knives and a stick and police then escalated the volatile situation by breaking down the door and sending in a police dog.  After the young man injured the dog with a machete swing to its back he allegedly swung the weapon at police prompting two officers to open fire. This case is part of a growing problem of people with severe mental disorders who are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, with sometimes deadly consequences, without adequate mental health services.  As a result of other tragic killings by police, many police departments are using a crisis intervention team model, in which specially trained officers are dispatched to a scene when a person with mental illness is involved. An article at Fox 5 San Diego covers the killing of the refugee from Myanmar:

SAN DIEGO – Friends of a young man with mental illness, who was killed by police after he threatened his family and police with knives and a stick at his City Heights apartment over the weekend, wondered if police could have handled it differently.

Patrol personnel went to the residence in the 3800 block of Menlo Avenue at 10:20 p.m. Sunday on reports that a man was threatening the lives of his family, according to San Diego police.

Officers arrived to find the man holding a knife and a stick and behaving in an “agitated” manner, Lt. Mike Hastings said. As the officers tried to persuade him to disarm himself, he allegedly began threatening them and retrieved a machete.
Officers tried in vain to subdue the suspect with stun guns and police dogs, Hastings said. When one of the canines approached, the man struck the animal on the back with the machete, according to police.

The suspect then allegedly swung the weapon at an officer, prompting two others to open fire. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at the scene.
The man was identified by friends on a social media website as 21-year-old Burmese refugee from Myanmar named Ja Ma Lo Day…

He suffered from mental illness and had been involved in several prior encounters with the police, according to the online posting… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, language, mental health, police, San Diego | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another fatal fire – this time in Phoenix

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 12, 2014

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A late afternoon fire killed a 7-month-old Somali baby boy at the McDowell East Apartments in Phoenix two weeks ago.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.  Firefighters believe that a smoke detector had no batteries.  The local fire marshal says it’s shockingly common for smoke detectors to have no batteries, which should be a message to resettlement agencies to check refugee clients’ smoke detectors periodically.  Another fire in June in New Bern, NC displaced many refugee families.  In that case the cause of the fire was children playing with a lighter.  An article in The Republic covers the Phoenix story:

As residents of a Phoenix community continue to grieve for a 7-month-old baby who died in an apartment fire, questions linger about whether the unit had a working smoke detector and if family members, who are Somali ­refugees, would have understood its importance.

Officials said 7-month-old Mohamed Ali likely died of smoke inhalation after his family’s home in the McDowell East Apartments, near 24th Street and McDowell Road, caught fire at about 3 p.m. Monday.

The baby’s mother and grandmother were able to get the other children living in the home out of harm’s way but were unable to get the baby out because of heavy smoke and a wall of flames that blocked their path. Neighbors, including an off-duty firefighter, also rushed in to help but were unable to reach Mohamed.

The fire displaced about 80 people living in the complex, which is largely occupied by refugee families. Most of them have since returned home to their apartments.

Investigators on Wednesday were still trying to determine the fire’s cause.

Sgt. Trent Crump, a police spokesman, said investigators believe the family’s apartment didn’t have a working detector — the battery was missing. Crump said that it’s not clear who ­removed the battery or when but that it is part of the ongoing inquiry…

Fatuma Dubow, a Somali refugee who lives in the complex, said most people from her homeland don’t have electricity, so checking a smoke detector or understanding how it works is knowledge that develops over time…

Another Somali refugee who lives nearby said she knew that smoke detectors were important but was under the impression that they alerted police and fire automatically during a fire…

Cathy Peterson, vice president of program operations for Catholic Charities Community Service, gave a…description for her group’s health and safety orientations.

“The heath and safety (primer) would include the smoke alarms,” she said… Read more here

Posted in apartment building fires, children, housing, Phoenix, Somali Bantu | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014

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It’s now been almost two years since this blog reported on attacks occurring on refugees in Rochester, NY.  The US refugee program has not solved the problem and continues to resettle refugees to this known dangerous site.  The State Department’s resettlement office has made clear that it does not consider crime rates when deciding where to resettle this vulnerable group (refugees).  In 2012 Burmese refugees were under attack in the neighborhoods where the refugee program resettled them, and someone shot to death a Sudanese refugee.  Last month an article reported that Nepali-Bhutanese refugees were under repeated attack as well.  Another article in the Democrat & Chronicle documents the latest incidents:

Locked inside their house in northwest Rochester, the Nepalese family felt under siege.

Outside, a crowd of young men — 20 to 25 in number — broke windows to the home and threatened to storm inside, according to members of the family. Moments before, several young men had followed and jumped a Nepalese teen. That scuffle then escalated into the menacing gang…

It wasn’t until the police came that the crowd scattered. This incident, in daylight hours Thursday, is another in a growing list of attacks against South Asian refugee families who have been settled in areas of northwest Rochester near Jones Square…
As law enforcement officials decide how to curb the intimidation and violence, the refugees themselves say they feel ignored and left to fend for themselves…

Many of the refugees are hesitant to talk to police, and, when they do, they have not been able to provide much information about their attackers. Typically, the offenders have been young African-American men, creating a volatile situation in which the refugees feel at risk in the very neighborhoods where they have been resettled…

If deemed a “hate crime” — namely if evidence exists that the refugees are targeted because of their nationality and not simply because they may be seen as vulnerable — then there could be grounds for federal prosecutions…

Bill Wischmeyer, an advocate for the refugee community, said there were two other attacks on refugees this week, one on children playing soccer. Wischmeyer has been regularly contacting police, hoping to head off future violence.

Some of the refugees see the constant harassment as the opening salvos in a battle. Their supporters, meanwhile, try to assure them that the police will find means to protect them and help them find safety in their new home.

Wischmeyer came to the Parkway home on Thursday afternoon after the gang had left.

“I came over and it looked like a war zone,” he said. Read more here

Posted in abuse, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, elderly refugees, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, Rochester, State Department, teenagers, teens | 2 Comments »

ORR to divert $94 mil from the refugee resettlement fund to aid influx of migrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 2, 2014

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To deal with the unprecedented influx of migrant children crossing the border illegally from Central America the ORR (Office for Refugee Resettlement) is transferring nearly $94 million from the refugee resettlement fund to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program. The transfer will result in a reduction in services to refugees being resettled to the US, including services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement. An article in NPR in Louisville covers the issue:

An increase of undocumented children coming into America is expected to reduce the funding for services available to displaced people living in Kentucky and across the U.S.

Kentucky Office for Refugees officials expect to see a $2.28 million cut in federal funding to provide refugees in Kentucky with services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement.

The reduction in funding stems from an influx of children coming to the U.S. to escape violence and economic struggle in Central America, refugee services officials said.  To better serve these children, the Office for Refugee Resettlement is transferring nearly $94 million to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program.  The $2.28 million Kentucky officials expect to lose is a part of the $94 million transfer.

Because of the cuts, thousands of newly arrived refugees would receive a limited amount of…services… Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Kentucky, Louisville, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Apartment house fire in New Bern, N.C.

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 30, 2014

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There been another apartment house fire, this time in New Bern, North Carolina.  Children playing with a lighter started the fire.  The fire displaced about 30 refugees from Myanmar — placed in the apartments by Interfaith Refugee Ministry.  The fire damaged 8 apartments occupied by the refugees, who lost everything. The story is found at WNCT CBS Channel 9.

NEW BERN, N.C. – Several fire departments battled a fire at Coopers Landing apartments on Simmons Street in New Bern Wednesday morning.

Colleen Roberts, public information officer with New Bern, says investigators site children playing with a lighter as the cause.

About 30 people have been displaced.

The fire affected units occupied by Burmese refugees who were placed there by the Interfaith Refugee Ministry, who helps refugees coming to the country get a fresh start…

The fire damaged 8 apartments…  Read more here

 

Posted in apartment building fires, Burma/Myanmar, children, housing, Interfaith Refugee Ministry, North Carolina | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Resettlement services for asylees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2014

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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 »

Springfield, MA struggling

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 27, 2014

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While the Mayor of Springfield continues to scapegoat refugees for perceived political gain a leader of a local refugee resettlement group is using the defense that the city is struggling with, “a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates.” Of course that raises the question about whether the city is a proper destination for refugees in the US resettlement program.  An article in The Republican continues a series of articles covering the issue:

SPRINGFIELD – An organization that resettles refugees in Western Massachusetts said Monday the program should not serve as “a scapegoat” for city problems, as Mayor Domenic J. Sarno has renewed a request for a moratorium on new refugees in Springfield.

Jodie Justofin, a spokeswoman for Lutheran Social Services, said Monday that Sarno’s concerns about the resettlement of refugees in Springfield, including his claim that it poses a hardship on city services, was already addressed in a letter from the agency’s president Angela Bovill, in August.

“As you’ll note, Angela put this political issue in the context of the many challenges facing Springfield,” Justofin said. “In a city of 150,000 residents, the relatively small number of refugees (about 1 percent of the population) residing in Springfield should not be made a scapegoat for the city’s problems. Many of these refugees are contributing members of society, working, paying taxes and enriching the community.”…

At that time, Bovill said in part: “I trust you don’t mean to imply that in a city with a population of more than 150,000, Springfield’s longstanding struggle with a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates are a direct result of the 250-300 refugees resettling to the City annually,”… Read more here

Posted in crime, employment/jobs for refugees, housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, moratorium / restriction / reduction, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacker of Albuquerque Iraqi Catholic refugee yelled anti-Muslim obscenities

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 17, 2014

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An Iraqi Catholic refugee alleges she was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment and robbed of $20,000 in gold. Now the FBI is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. An article in the Daily Reporter covers the story:

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An Iraqi Catholic refugee who was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment appears to be the victim of a hate crime by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims, police said.

According to Albuquerque police, a man last week forced his way into the home of Seham Jaber, shouting nasty remarks about Muslims and punching her in the head and stomach. The intruder then tore up her family’s citizenship papers in the June 5 attack, investigators said.

“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said.

Jaber, who speaks Arabic, told police the unknown assailant also stole at least $20,000 in gold, which represented her family’s life savings. The assailant also stole jewelry, she said.

“No house, no car. It was all in gold,” Saad Sajet, Jaber’s husband, told the Albuquerque Journal.

The suspect was described as wearing a mask, jeans and a yellow T-shirt.

No arrest has been made.

The FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday… Read more here

Posted in anti-Islamic, Catholic, dangerous neighborhoods, FBI, hate crimes, Iraqi, New Mexico, police, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees preyed upon on Rochester NY streets

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014

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Refugees in Rochester NY say they are fed up with being targeted for crime on the city’s streets. Ironically, many of these refugees do not report the crimes to police. Reportedly, the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Nepali-Bhutanese and other refugees are being committed by young men from the African-American community. There is some debate whether these attacks are hate crimes or if the young men are targeting the victims due to their vulnerability as immigrants. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle examines the issue:

Are the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Bhutanese, Nepali and other refugees by young men from the African-American community hate crimes or crimes of economics and opportunity?

Perhaps a little of both.

Former Rochester police chief James Sheppard, who now works as a mentor to young African-American men whose lives have gone down paths of crime, downplayed tagging the crimes as “hate crimes” — defined generally as a criminal offense motivated by bias against race, religion, gender or other characteristics. He said the perpetrators are more often young black men who don’t feel good about themselves and who prey on the vulnerable for economic reasons…

Those who have been attacked say the abuse is often accompanied by comments such as “go back to your own country,” or “you don’t belong here.”…

Members of that community say they often do not call police because they either fear retaliation from the accused, they don’t think police will be effective at solving the problem, or they are simply more inclined just accept the abuse… Read more here

Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, police, Rochester, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Springfield, Massachusetts case back into the public spotlight

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 1, 2014

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The refugee case in Springfield, Massachusetts has come back into the public spotlight after police responding to call from a Somali family discovered them living in an apartment with an extremely heavy roach infestation and no electricity. Of the family’s children two required special breathing equipment, which was not functioning without electricity.  City inspectors said it was the worst roach infestation they had ever seen and condemned the apartment. In addition, there were missing or non-working smoke detectors, no working stove, and other conditions that made the apartment uninhabitable. The mayor and others have of course jumped on the refugee resettlement agencies in town but the family was resettled in 2003 and moved out of the state only to move back, and then out again and then back again.  Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts last assisted the family in 2011 until the family moved out-of-state a second time and claim it was not aware the family needed help again.

A couple of articles in The Republican newspaper report on the case:

SPRINGFIELD – City officials said Tuesday that Somali refugees including 12 children were found living in deplorable conditions in a Union Street apartment that had a heavy infestation of roaches and no electricity.

The duplex apartment at 515 Union St. was condemned Thursday by the city, and the tenants — believed to number three adults and 12 children — were relocated after Code Enforcement and Housing officials were notified and conducted the inspection, city officials said.

“It was the heaviest infestation of roaches I have seen in years,” said David Cotter, the city’s deputy director of code enforcement in the Housing Division. “They were all over the walls, floors, ceilings, window areas, doorways. I ordered all the inspectors out of there until we could get a full extermination report.”

According to police, one child was doing her homework outside the building under a street lamp on Wednesday night due to the lack of electricity, Cotter said.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who has been critical of the refugee resettlement policies in Springfield in the past, renewed his criticism on Tuesday. Refugees have not received adequate follow-up services from the resettlement agencies, from the federal level on down, leaving them to be a strain on city services, Sarno said.

“Where is the accountability?” Sarno said.

The residents were living in poverty and in crowded, unsafe conditions, Sarno said.

Sarno had urged the federal government to stop locating new refugees in Springfield last year, and called for a moratorium again on Tuesday.

“No mas, no more,” Sarno said… Read more here

Although Jewish Family Service is not responsible for this family, that was resettled eleven years ago, they have pledged to help.  A second article gives more information:

SPRINGFIELD – Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts President Robert Marmor said this week that his agency will work with the state to ensure the safety of 12 refugee children who were living in conditions at a Union Street apartment described as roach-infested…

In another twist, the 12 children and their parents have since moved temporarily into a Greenfield hotel after spending a night in a Marian Street apartment provided by their landlord. That apartment was also condemned, officials said…

Marmor, in a letter to Associate City Solicitor Lisa DeSousa, said his agency will act immediately to “ensure the children are safe and in appropriate child care and academic settings.”

David Cotter, the city’s deputy director of code enforcement, said the roach infestation was the worst he has seen in many years.

In addition, he said there were missing or non-working smoke detectors, no electricity or working stove, and other conditions that made the apartment uninhabitable.

Marmor said his employees, in communicating with the family, believe there has been numerous complaints to the landlord about conditions. The landlord is No Limit Investment, whose officers are listed as Jimmy Davis, of Philadelphia, and Dasha Miller, of Springfield, according to records.

Daniel Kelly, of Springfield, a lawyer representing the landlord, said they are working to correct all violations this week at 515 Union St. In addition, they are correcting violations found at the second apartment they provided to the family at 197 Marion St…

The electricity had been turned off at the Union Street apartment because of very large unpaid electric bills, Kelly said… Read more here

Posted in children, housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, moratorium / restriction / reduction, police, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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