Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

IRC head: Gulf countries must do more for Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 22, 2015

Syrian_refugees

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: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Right-wing spreads false impressions of migrants bringing diseases

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 11, 2015

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Right wing politicians and media commentators are helping to carry on a long tradition of falsely blaming immigrants for the spread of diseases in the US. Baseless claims have included the odd assertion that migrants who cross the southwestern border of the United States being a reason in the latest measles outbreak. Not sure why they think illegal aliens are so well paid that they could take their families to Disneyland. Another claim was that unaccompanied migrant children from Central America may be carrying “deadly diseases,” including the Ebola virus, despite the fact that there is no Ebola virus in Central America. In 2006, Pat Buchanan claimed “illegal aliens” were responsible for bedbug infestations in “26 states”, though health officials attributed the increase in bedbugs to widespread use of baits instead of insecticide sprays for pest control. An article at MSNBC has the details:

…There is no evidence to support any of this, but it is part of a long and ugly pattern of demagoguery…

Jamelle Bouie had a great piece a while back highlighting the sad American tradition: Chinese immigrants in 1900 were accused of carrying the bubonic plague; Irish immigrants were accused of bringing cholera to the United States; Italians were blamed for polio; and Jews were blamed for Tuberculosis…

Today, anti-immigrant protesters hold signs asking Washington to “Save our children from diseases,” while right-wing lawmakers fret about disease screening and spread fears of infection and contamination. In doing so, both draw from a long history of ugly nativism and prejudice dressed as concern for public health. And you don’t have to be a liberal, or support immigration reform, to see that it’s a disgrace.

As we’re seeing this week, the regrettable tradition continues… Read more here

The right-wing has also been trying to blame border crossing migrants for diseases eradicated here by vaccines, claiming that the migrants are non-vaccinated. Yet 93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles compared to 92 percent American kids. The Texas Observer has a recent article that does a fact check on the issue:

…Fox News commentator Cal Thomas asks, for example, if “the unaccompanied minors pouring over the border…have brought with them proof of vaccination?” Thomas accuses the border-crossers of harboring vaccine-preventable diseases such as “mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria.”

Before demonizing undocumented children, we should look at the facts: The vast majority of Central Americans are vaccinated against all these diseases. Governments concerned about health, and good parents investing in their kids, have made Central American kids better-vaccinated than Texan kids. We fear them not because they are actually sick, but because of powerful anti-immigration narratives that link foreigners to disease.

Consider, for example, Guatemala. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Guatemalan kids are more likely than Texans to be immunized for most infectious diseases. Guatemala has universal health care. Vaccines are 100 percent funded by the government.

By comparison, one in six kids in Texas is uninsured, and even insured families often must pay for vaccination. That means that many Texas kids fall behind on vaccinations, or miss them altogether when their family can’t afford a doctor’s visit. Other families refuse vaccination.

Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a Fox News commentator and former director of the ultra-conservative political group Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, writes in the McAllen Monitor that measles is among the “diseases the United States had controlled or virtually eradicated” that are “carried across the border by this tsunami of illegals.”

Fact check: UNICEF reports that 93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles. That’s better than American kids (92 percent).

Furthermore, it’s absurd to claim that the U.S. has eradicated measles while Central America has not. In fact, measles outbreaks have resurged in some American cities. By contrast, according to the World Health Organization, neither Guatemala nor Honduras has had a reported case of measles since 1990…

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the Latino men who came to work rebuilding the city were accused of spreading infectious diseases such as chlamydia and HIV.

The targeting of vulnerable outsiders whenever disease breaks out is even older than this country. Historian Barbara Tuchman has described how outbreaks of plague in Europe would lead to pogroms. The lynchings of Jews, she writes “began in 1348 on the heels of the first plague deaths.” When we blame immigrants for infectious disease, we participate in a nasty—and deadly—old tradition…Read more here

Posted in CDC, health, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

REMINDER: Monday, Feb 9 Deadline for White House Call for Ideas

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2015

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Monday, Feb 9 is the deadline to submit to the White House ideas to help shape the federal refugee integration strategy. Below are excerpts taken from the White House Office of the Press Secretary

In November 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to fix our broken immigration system. As part of these actions, the President created a White House Task Force on New Americans.

Civic integration provides security in rights and liberties. Economic integration empowers self-sufficiency and allows new Americans to give back to their communities and contribute to economic growth. English language acquisition allows employment and career advancement along with active civic participation.

The goal of the Task Force is to develop a federal immigrant integration strategy that allows new Americans to contribute to society to their fullest potential and bring new Americans together with their receiving communities to strengthen communities.

Please send your ideas and examples to NewAmericans@who.eop.gov by Monday, February 9, 2015.

Posted in Obama administration, reform | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 5, 2015

panhandling

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

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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 »

FORefugees website/blog celebrates its 5th anniversary

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 1, 2015

5years

Yesterday marked our 5th anniversary. Five years ago I wished I had started this blog monitoring the US refugee program nine years earlier – but, it wasn’t too late. Now its difficult to believe that its half a decade now in progress.

I have to say that there has been almost no progress in reforming the program. The powerful refugee resettlement contractors are as powerful as ever. There is almost no accountability at all, save for the one or two groups that lost their refugee contracts, no due to malfeasance, but for being caught by the media committing malfeasance.

Five years ago resettlement agencies were placing refugees in roach infested apartments, violating government refugee contract documents. Today refugees are being placed in roach infested apartments. That said, the program used to run in near total secrecy – a secrecy that had no other purpose than to shield public servants and their contractor friends from accountability. Today some light at least shines into the program via blogs and websites such as this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US to take in 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees this year

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 28, 2015

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The US is set to take in 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. The goal through fy2016 is 10,000. Only 323 Syrians were resettled in the U.S. in 2014, 36 in 2013, but Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the State Department said the United Nations only recently has sought to resettle larger numbers. An article in USAtoday about refugees in Kentucky has the details:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twenty-one Syrian refugees will arrive here in the next two weeks, a figure expected to increase as the U.S. begins to take in an expanded number of refugees fleeing Syria’s bloody civil war.

The refugees, from four families who fled to Jordan and Egypt, are part of a larger U.S. resettlement effort expected to bring as many as 10,000 Syrians to cities across the USA through fiscal year 2016 alone, according to the U.S. State Department…

he United States has accepted few Syrian refugees in recent years, sparking criticism that it was slow to respond. But Bartlett said the United Nations only recently has sought to resettle larger numbers. The State Department is now reviewing nearly 10,000 referrals from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

By contrast, 323 Syrians were resettled in the U.S. in 2014, 36 in 2013.

The U.N. is asking an array of nations to take in 100,000 refugees through 2016, Bartlett said, and the U.S. will be a significant player.

Although private resettlement agencies will determine where they go, last year some arrived in California, Illinois and Texas. [Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the State Department] predicted resettlements would reach 1,000 to 2,000 through this fiscal year and grow more quickly in the subsequent 12 months.

While no ceiling on Syrians has been set, the U.S. has a cap of 70,000 total global refugees a year… Read more here

Posted in Kentucky, State Department, Syrian, UN | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We’re now on Facebook

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 22, 2015

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This blog now has a Facebook page. If you like this blog or any posts we write you can now like us. The like for the blog is halfway down the column on the right side.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Syrian refugee in Houston – Cockroaches seem to pour from the walls

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2015

contract

Apparently YMCA International remains in violation of the State Department refugee resettlement contract and no one seems to care. In 2008 during a State Department inspection monitors noted “…All refugee homes inspected had significant roach and/or mice infestation.” Now, a newspaper article reports that a Syrian refugee family resettled in Houston by this resettlement agency is living in an apartment practically overrun by cockroaches. The State Department contract explicitly states that resettlement “Housing should be safe, sanitary, and in good repair.” I don’t think insect infestation would qualify as sanitary. An article in the Houston Chronicle explains:

The sparse two-bedroom apartment in southwest Houston is a far cry from the sprawling home Chujaa Masre owned in Homs. Cockroaches seem to pour out of the walls, appearing to him almost as resistant to defeat as the Syrian army in his war-torn country.

His wife, horrified, at first declared they were going home, never mind the bombs and airstrikes that have ravaged their nation, killing what human rights groups estimate to be about 220,000 people in four years. Ever since fleeing Homs at the beginning of the military’s siege in 2011…

Masre, who was paired with the YMCA, said his assistance runs out in February…

By now, Masre has finessed his skill for eradicating pests. He’s learned to block up holes and fill in cracks to keep out mice and discovered the array of commercial options killing cockroaches. They take up an entire rack in his kitchen.

“But still they come,” he sighed… Read more here

Posted in housing, Houston, rats and roaches, State Department, YMCA International | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call for Ideas: Help Shape Refugee Integration Strategy

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 17, 2015

Task ForceAs part of an inter-agency Task Force on new Americans on improving our immigration system President Obama is calling for public input of ideas on how to improve our system. This includes the refugee resettlement program. Comments are due by February 9, 2015.

In November 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to fix our broken immigration system. As part of these actions, the President created a White House Task Force on New Americans. We are proud to serve as the co-chairs of this federal interagency Task Force, which will focus on the civic, economic and linguistic integration of new Americans and creating welcoming communities for all residents.

As the President’s memorandum states:

“…Civic integration provides security in rights and liberties. Economic integration empowers      self-sufficiency and allows new Americans to give back to their communities and contribute to economic growth. English language acquisition allows employment and career advancement along with active civic participation.”

We are, and will continue to be, a nation of immigrants. On average, the United States welcomes approximately 1 million lawful permanent residents and more than 700,000 newly naturalized citizens each year. These new Americans contribute significantly to our economy. In fact, while foreign-born residents make up 13 percent of the population, they represent over 16 percent of the labor force and start 28 percent of all new businesses creating jobs for millions of Americans.

The goal of the Task Force is to develop a federal immigrant integration strategy that allows new Americans to contribute to society to their fullest potential and bring new Americans together with their receiving communities to strengthen communities.

By March 2015, the Task Force will submit a plan to the President that includes recommendations for federal actions to promote the integration of new Americans. In developing this plan, we need to hear from you. You know best what is working to support immigrant integration in your community. Send us input on promising practices and examples of model programs that help immigrants and refugees to contribute to your communities and our economy.

We also need your input to ensure that federal programs and policies continue to reflect our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the fabric of our country.

Please send your ideas and examples to NewAmericans@who.eop.gov by February 9, 2015.

Cecilia Muñoz is Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. León Rodríguez is Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
…Read here

Posted in Obama administration, reform | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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