Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘IRC’

IRC head: Gulf countries must do more for Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 22, 2015


David Miliband the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee is calling on Arabian Gulf states to begin accepting Syrian refugees for resettlement. The UN has said 130,000 Syrians need to be resettled every year outside of the country. Miliband said there needs to be fair allocation among countries and that so far Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan that are bearing the brunt of refugees. I suspect he’s also referring to countries outside the region that have accepted Syrians for resettlement, although far short of the 120,000 per year. Countried accepting Syrian refugees include: Bulgaria 5000, Germany 18,000, Sweden 14,700 [U.S. News & World Report], and the US goal through fy2016 is 10,000. An article in the UAE’s The National explains:

DUBAI // A former British foreign minister has called on Arabian Gulf states to lead the world and take in Syrian refugees fleeing the country.

David Miliband, who is now chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, a charity committed to helping the most vulnerable, said the West had so far been poor at setting a good example on this front so there is a chance for Gulf countries to show their humanitarian prowess.

The world beyond Syria needs to take its fair share of people leaving the country,” he said in an interview with The National. “Western countries have not been good at this so far.

One of the things the Gulf could do is make a point here. The UN has said 130,000 Syrians need to be resettled every year outside of the country.

That needs a fair allocation. At the moment that isn’t happening and, symbolically, that is damaging.

It is very important that there remains an openness in the Gulf to help people who are trying to escape from their suffering. It can’t just be Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan that are bearing the brunt of refugees.”…

Mr Miliband was speaking ahead of a meeting in the UAE to encourage further financial support to help the relief effort for displaced Syrians…

The UN has said 250,000 people in besieged parts of Syria are completely cut off from aid, and six million are in need of humanitarian help…

The UAE has the chance to be a leader in the humanitarian field in this area,” he said…

The opportunity for the UAE, the state and the public, is to now make a difference. The needs are much greater than the traditional international system can meet.

Different parts of the Gulf have made their financial contributions but, overall, it has to rise, and also [increase] from the West.”

Mr Miliband said it is important that Gulf countries play a central role in the politics of Syria, as it is in their own interest… Read more here

Posted in IRC, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Athens has panhandlers, can’t take humanitarian refugees, says Mayor

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 5, 2015


According to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia Mayor Nancy Denson, the City has “panhandlers and people sleeping outside”, so sorry, they can’t help humanitarian program refugees. This emphasis on panhandlers shows the Mayor as client of the retail business community. Does people sleeping outside show a lack of adequate shelter space? If not, and people chose to sleep outside, then how does that burden the community so much that they can’t help refugees? Local clergy disagree and have now invited the IRC back to Athens to reconsider opening a local refugee resettlement office after earlier opposition from the Mayor and Governor. Refugees who have migrated to Athens on their own via “secondary migration” are already living in the community. An article in Athens Banner-Herald gives an update to the story:

Less than four months after the U.S. State Department rejected a plan from a nonprofit refugee resettlement group to set up a program in Athens, a small group of Athens area clergy have begun work aimed at convincing the federal agency to reconsider.

Those clergy and others met for 90 minutes Wednesday at Athens’ Covenant Presbyterian Church with J.D. McCrary, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. McCrary, who had spearheaded the IRC’s unsuccessful effort to have a resettlement program designed to serve 150 refugees — people fleeing persecution and atrocities, as opposed to people simply wanting to come into the United States — established in Athens, was invited back to the community by some of those ministers.

The local churches represented at Wednesday’s meeting, in addition to Covenant Presbyterian, were Oconee Street United Methodist, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, Christ Community Church, Commerce Presbyterian, Colbert United Methodist and Comer United Methodist.

McCrary told the group the IRC effort in Athens was rejected by the State Department as a result of what the department saw as significant local political opposition to the proposal…

McCrary told the slightly more than one dozen people gathered at Covenant Presbyterian that the agency has no current plans to submit another proposal for State Department review. If, however, some evidence of community support were to surface, the IRC might consider making another proposal next year, McCrary said, or it could come back to the community following the next election cycle if it appeared that political opposition might have softened.

In a Friday interview, [Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson] said her position on the IRC proposal hadn’t changed.

My responsibility is to take care of the people who are already here,” she said.

It’s purely a capacity issue,” Denson added, noting that Athens is already dealing with “panhandlers and people sleeping outside… Read more here

Posted in Georgia, IRC, refugee, secondary migration, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Tucson face underemployment, prejudice and racism from the community

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 1, 2015


A recent newspaper article explores the plight of refugees placed for resettlement in Tucson, Arizona. It seems that the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is placing refugee professionals such as mechanical engineers and doctors in entry-level jobs such as dish washing. While I don’t wish to be cynical I do wish to have some healthy skepticism here. Are there really no jobs in Tucson, even lower level ones, in which employers are looking for people with engineering or medical knowledge? It seems that the IRC has grown accustomed to using the least effort in placing refugees in jobs, without taking advantage of other options. The state of Idaho created a program to help these refugees, and help Idaho, rather than waste these professionals’ knowledge and experience. The article also discusses a case in which a refugee man was riding his bike home from work at 2 a.m. when a group of men in a pickup truck taunted him and ran him off the road. The entire side of his body was torn up. The IRC relocated him from his home for fear of persecution. An article in The Arizona Daily Wildcat explains:

…Caitlin Reinhard, senior employment specialist for the International Rescue Committee, in Tucson [spoke] about the issues refugees face in the community. Regardless of professional and educational background, the first job that many refugees obtain are minimum wage, entry-level jobs. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a mechanical engineer to be placed in Tucson and work as a dishwasher.

Reinhard emphasized the reluctance of employers to hire overqualified employees. For example, a refugee who was a doctor in their home country would have more trouble finding employment than a refugee with a grade-school level of education…

In conjunction with employment issues…Tucson refugees face prejudice and racism from the community in which they are working to become members. Reinhard spoke of a client who worked the night shift at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Golf Resort and Spa. On his way home from work, the man rode his bike to the intersection of Alvernon Way and Grant Road at 2 a.m. when a group of men in a pickup truck taunted him and ran him off the road. The entire side of his body was torn up.

We were more outraged than he was,” Reinhard said.

The  man was relocated from his home for fear of persecution. He did not harbor negative feelings toward Americans. However, because of our cultural biases, our community threatened his safety… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Arizona, employment/jobs for refugees, hate crimes, IRC, professionals, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

State Department bows to pressure to rescind plan to resettle refugees in Athens

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 15, 2014

brakeThe U.S. State Department has decided to put on indefinite hold the plan this fiscal year to begin resettling refugees to Athens, Georgia after local and state government opposition. Both the mayor of Athens as well as the Governor and Georgia Human Services Commissioner have come out against the plan. Senior level officials from the State Department are planning a visit to Athens next month, apparently to try some diplomacy and to negotiate with local government officials. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the case:

The U.S. State Department has shelved a plan to resettle 150 refugees in Athens following objections from Mayor Nancy Denson and Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration.

The International Rescue Committee said it got an email last week from the federal agency saying it would consider the proposal “after additional planning and community consultation.”…

“There is always hope in the future and the good news is that senior level officials from the State Department are planning a visit to Athens next month to view the area in person for future consideration,” he wrote.

“During the visit we will be clarifying with them what additional planning and consultations they are requiring, showing them firsthand why Athens has already become a preferred destination for refugees seeking a new life, and discussing a concrete plan to resubmit a proposal to establish an official resettlement site.”…

In a letter sent to the U.S. State Department in August, Georgia Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton said he did not want the refugee resettlement plan to “go forward at this time.”

“The degree of cooperation, communication and consultation is not where I would like for it to be,” Horton wrote. “It is my hope that the community of Athens/Clarke County and the IRC will continue to work together to resolve the issues and concerns that have been raised.”

Horton’s letter followed one Denson sent Deal’s administration two days before. In her letter, the Democratic mayor complained the IRC did not reach out to enough people in her community early enough about its plans. She also raised concerns that the refugees could strain public resources in Athens-Clarke County, which is home to about 120,000 residents. Denson said she wanted the IRC to delay its efforts and to “present a formal refugee integration plan” to local elected officials and others. Read more here

Posted in IRC, PRM, State Department, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Athens GA mayor opposes IRC resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 25, 2014

opposeThe mayor of Athens, Georgia sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold.  Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson claims she is worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system.  She goes on to claim that Athens can only offer minimum wage jobs to refugees and that allowing the refugees to resettle would be “importing poverty”.  I guess my question is do local businesses want to fill those low wage jobs or not?  What plans does the mayor have for helping to increase wages for families?  An article in Athens Banner-Herald has more:

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold.

Denson worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system. Athens can offer very little outside of low-wage employment to the refugees, Denson said.

The mayor and other local leaders also expressed concern in recent interviews about adding to the area’s poverty level.

Upwards of 150 refugees, including men, women and children, were expected to resettle in Athens in 2015… Read more here

Posted in capacity, Georgia, IRC, schools, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

National restriction on refugee arrivals and travel moratorium may finally end October 28

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2013


Although the federal government shutdown has now ended, refugee resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28. Complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will also delay many refugee arrivals for months. Some refugees may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time, and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas. An article in USAToday explains:

…roughly 4,500 refugees who had been cleared to come to the United States in October — including 73 heading for Kentucky — but now face delays that resettlement officials say may take months for some to resolve…

Now more than 2 weeks old, the shutdown forced the U.S. State Department to suspend most refugee arrivals and enact a travel moratorium, partly because the financial, medical and federal benefits or services aren’t available in some areas to help newcomers from Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, Bhutan and a host of other countries, officials said.

Although most expect Congress to reach an agreement to reopen the government, resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28 — and even then, the shutdown’s cascading effect on complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will delay many arrivals for months.

Nowhere to go

…Some may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time — and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas, including Burmese leaving Thai refugee camps…

The shutdown came just as the government was set to begin admitting 70,000 refugees for the coming federal fiscal year, said Cindy Jensen, director of resettlement with the International Rescue Committee. The moratorium was first extended to Oct. 21, and then again to Oct. 28.

A State Department official said the move was meant to ensure refugees receive proper support when they arrive but acknowledged it had left thousands of people “sitting in limbo.”

The government is allowing those who are seen as being at high risk to continue to arrive, such as Iraqi refugees who helped the United States during the war.

Church World Service, one of a handful of federally approved resettlement agencies, reported that nearly half of the refugees under its authority, initially cleared for travel in October, will be delayed as long as three months…

…Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which operates on a tight budget, is having to use reserves to continue to pay caseworkers and provide services, partly because the shutdown has kept the agency from getting the federal reimbursement of $750 per arrival budgeted for October… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Louisville Inc., Congress, CWS, funding, IRC, Louisville, moratorium / restriction / reduction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A closer look at refugee resettlement in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 29, 2013



The U.S. State Department has not responded to many questions posed by a media outlet in Athens, Georgia which has looked at the refugee resettlement program, though a recent article by the newspaper is pro-resettlement. The state government claims refugees are undue burden on limited state resources. Resettlement agencies claim refugees pay taxes, buy homes, and support education, and invest in their communities. They also claim that fewer refugees allowed to resettle in the state this year has resulted in a reduction in services to refugees already here. In the meantime resettlement agencies have also been making a late attempt to spread refugees out to other parts of metro-Atlanta and the state so as not to overburden local resettlement sites. An article in the Athens Banner-Herald discusses these and other related issues:

Resettlement agencies prefer to place new refugees close to family or existing ethnic communities to ease the transition to life in the U.S. Family ties and communities are often bundled around resources – agency offices, English language classes, jobs – necessary to acclimation.

the Georgia Department of Human Services to ask for a reduction of refugees coming to the state in 2013, citing school district budget shortfalls, and health and safety concerns. The U.S. Department of State would not confirm if other states had made similar requests.

We regularly receive feedback from stakeholders involved in the refugee resettlement process and take those into account as we finalize the placement plan for the upcoming year,” wrote state department spokesperson Laura Seal in an email.

The department declined to say how regularly these adjustments are made.

Georgia is home to the seventh largest refugee population in the country. Media reports have not listed other states as requesting reductions.

Georgia’s rationale for the cuts doesn’t hold water, according to the agencies that support resettlement. Problems allegedly caused by refugees often are bottled in DeKalb and Fulton counties. But the impact of the cuts has impacted services to refugees throughout the state, refugee advocates said, and has strained the state and agency relationship supposed to benefit refugees…

In August, just after refugee agencies submitted their annual capacity proposal to the U.S. State Department, a number it uses to determine refugee placement in Georgia, DHS sent a letter to the federal agency requesting a 50 percent reduction in refugee resettlings in the state.

The reduction, in effect, ended up closer to 20 percent, though an examination of arrivals in the first two quarters of 2013 shows no sign of abatement. The reduction lowered the maximum amount of refugees coming to the state, potentially with little impact on overall arrivals, but directly impacted the budgets of aid agencies, which receive federal funding based on the number of expected resettlements…

[state officials have complained that refugees have incurred costs the state can’t handle, yet] Repeated requests for detailed information on costs incurred by refugees went unfilled by the Georgia DHS. A February article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a state official estimating the cost at $6.7 million, an amount that included education costs… Read more here

Posted in capacity, funding, Georgia, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Accused translator for IRC refugees still has not been tried

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 6, 2013


In 2010 this blog reported on a case in Abilene, Texas in which a health district employee was accused of sexual assault of IRC refugee woman, then charged and jailed. Apparently after all this time the man has still not been tried in the matter. One of the constitutional rights we supposedly enjoy in this country is the right to a speedy trail, which is a potential concern in this case. Zane Travis in a letter to the Abilene Reporter-News expresses his own concern about the case:

I wish to alert Abilenians to a perceived injustice. You may have noticed recently that the trial for Aloys Nzeyimana was postponed for the 10th time.

Aloys was employed by the Abilene Health District as an interpreter for International Rescue Committee refugees and worked under my supervision and that of the official refugee nurse. For about five years. We watched him help refugees above and beyond expected duties, with kindness and humor. He was active in his church and at local organized refugee information meetings.

In December 2010, he was arrested in a parking lot as he was leaving the health department, apparently accused of sexually assaulting several refugee women. At the time of his arrest, he was held in the parking lot for 50 minutes until the newspaper could get there and take his picture, which was on the front page the next day. His office was quickly searched and contents removed.

His fellow employees (including me) were shocked at the charges. His bail was set at $450,000 — a heroic amount for no reported injuries. Nobody ever went to the E.R. claiming they had been raped or attacked. It is believed that the original charges may have been spurred by a disgruntled stepdaughter, who had been brought here from Africa at Aloys’ expense. Apparently there was a problem finding people who were allegedly hurt by him, since a notice was placed in Swahili on the front page of the paper asking for people to come forward who had been harmed by him… Read more here

Posted in Abilene, court, IRC, police, safety, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Last year U.S. State Department reduced refugees to Georgia by 20 to 25 percent

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 1, 2013


Last year the Republican led State of Georgia asked the federal government to cut the number of refugees resettling to the state by 50 percent. In response the U.S. State Department reduced the numbers by 20 to 25 percent. The number of refugees was from roughly 4,000 per year to about 2,500. In response, Georgia’s IRC office’s Executive Director J.D. McCrary points out that 80 percent of refugees resettled in the state are economic self-sufficient after six months, the highest in the country. The Republican-led state government, however, claims that refugees put a burden on local and state services. An article at CBS Atlanta has more:

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – The state wants fewer refugees to resettle in Georgia. Georgia has one of the highest numbers of refugee populations in the country. These are people who have fled their home country for fear of persecution. Last year the state asked the federal government to allow half the number, saying refugees put a burden on local and state services…

…”Refugees are enormously successful and are a cultural, social economic boom to the state, IRC Executive Director J.D. McCrary said.

McCrary said refugees in Georgia have an 80 percent self-suffiency rate after six months, the highest in the country.

“That means from the day a refugee lands at the airport, they actually have a job, they are paying their own way, they’re paying taxes, they’re paying their own rent, they’re giving back to the community,” McCrary said.

Last year, the state requested 50 percent fewer new arrivals. McCrary said the state department decided on a reduction of 20 to 25 percent. The number of refugees went from roughly 4,000 per year to about 2,500. 

“Fifty-percent. That’s an enormous request and in fact it’s an unreasonable request. We’re really not sure what the Governor’s or the states reservations are over the arrival of new refugees,” McCrary said… Read more here

Posted in Georgia, IRC, Office of Admissions, right-wing, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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