Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Syrian Boy in Aleppo Silent And In Shock

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 24, 2016

screen-shot-2016-08-17-at-6-03-03-pm

A small boy seen in the video is silent and in shock in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo — one of the thousands of Syrian children caught in an endless war.  He’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt with a cartoon character. The footage then shows a girl wearing pink dress in the ambulance, and a man placing another boy in to join them. A blurb and video is found at the Time magazine website:

Hitting the play button begins a scene that has played out in Syria thousands of times over the past five years. It’s dark and men are frantically yelling. A young child, later identified by media citing medical workers as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, is passed between the arms of his rescuers from a building in Aleppo. He’s caked in dust. The left side of his face is smeared with blood.

He doesn’t make a sound…

That was…footage shared…by the Aleppo Media Center, reportedly showing the immediate aftermath of an apparent Syrian government or Russian airstrike in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city, which for years has been a battleground between government and opposition forces. The footage and a picture of the boy were shared widely online in the hours that followed… Read more here

 

Posted in children, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crowdfunded resettlement as complement to government funding program

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 23, 2016

crowdfunded

Prior to World War Two refugees arriving in the US where entirely sponsored by private groups.  In order to assist the large numbers of refugees from the war the US federal government joined in to assist when the war ended. Private funding enjoyed a limited private sponsorship program from 1987 to 1993 (President Reagan’s “private sector initiative”) that complemented the government funded program.  Relaunching a new private funding program could help reduce need for government funding since sponsors have personal and financial incentives to help refugees succeed.  If refugees get back on their feet more quickly, private funders can actually save money by helping refugees become self-sufficient faster, whereas there are no similar incentives for the government-run program.  An article from the Cato Institute blog explains the details:

…The old model of refugee resettlement relies entirely on the government. The president proposes a target sometime in the middle of the year for the next fiscal year and submits a budget to Congress requesting funds to implement the plan. Congress then holds hearings and passes appropriations bills to fund it. Finally, sometime in September, the president releases the final target. It is a top-down, inflexible process, unsuited for our age, where factors can change in seconds based on news 10,000 miles away.

Private refugee sponsorship can fill the defects in the current refugee program. Private sponsorship as it is used in Canada allows groups of individuals or philanthropic organizations to “sponsor” refugees for resettlement in the country, using private funds and private housing to cover the costs. The system is dynamic and provides an outlet for surges in public interest during humanitarian crises…

The government-controlled refugee system needs competition. The United States used to have a limited private sponsorship program from 1987 to 1993. It resettled 16,000 refugees from communism—8,000 Cubans and 8,000 Jews from the Soviet Union. The State Department called the initiative “highly successful.” The program was discontinued by the Clinton administration, citing a lack of need, but now is the perfect time for a relaunch…

Sponsors have personal and financial incentives to help refugees succeed whereas government bureaucrats do not. If refugees become self-sufficient, philanthropists can actually save money by getting refugees on their feet faster. There are no similar incentives for the government-run program… Read more here

Posted in Canadian refugee resettlement pgrm, employment/jobs for refugees, funding, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Financial dealings merky between feds and private prison companies detaining Central American asylum seekers

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 22, 2016

 

prison

The number of undocumented people in this country is currently dropping and has dropped for the last few years, yet you wouldn’t know that from the rhetoric spewing from the political right.  Much of the general public’s understanding of unauthorized immigration is also clouded in unknowns. The financial dealings between the federal government and private prison companies with contracts to detain unauthorized immigrants are an aspect of immigration that doesn’t see much scrutiny. As numbers of unauthorized immigrants surged in 2014, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a $1 billion a year deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest prison company.  Under the deal, CCA was responsible for building and maintaining a large immigrant detention facility for women and children in South Texas; in an unusual arrangement, CCA is guaranteed payment for being at capacity regardless of how full the facility actually is. (For a comparison of spending, however, know that Americans’ annual spending on other things — 2012 figures — includes: Perfume: $4.2 billion, Coffee: $11 billion, Romance Novels: $10 billion, Tattoos: $2.3 billion, Golf balls & Twinkies: Approximately $500 million each.)  An article at ProPublica explains:

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons. While significant, the move will not put an end to the booming immigrant detention industry…

Even though private prison companies play a central role in the government’s immigration strategy, the financial dealings between the two are often opaque. In his piece for the Washington Post, reporter Chico Harlan sheds light on one of these secretive arrangements, detailing a $1 billion deal between the Obama Administration and Corrections Corporation of America, also known as CCA, the largest private prison company in the country.

Under the deal, CCA was responsible for building and maintaining a large immigrant detention facility for women and children in South Texas; in an unusual arrangement, CCA is guaranteed payment for being at capacity regardless of how full the facility actually is….

The public debate around immigration contrasts with what is actually happening on the ground.

Harlan: I think immigration is an irresistible subject, even though I’m somewhat new to it. As you look into it, I don’t think there’s anything in America that is more discussed, that brings out more opinion, but where the gulf between what’s actually happening and what people believe is happening is different. Just the most glaring example is the fact that the number of undocumented people in this country is dropping and has been dropping for the last few years. This is after decades of increase. You would never think that based on the rhetoric. Read more here

The original article is found in the Washington Post.

…[Central American] asylum seekers, until two years ago, had rarely been held in detention. They instead settled in whatever town they chose, told to eventually appear in court. The Obama administration’s decision to transform that policy — pushed by lawmakers assailing the porous state of the nation’s border — shows how the frenzy of America’s immigration politics can also bolster a private sector that benefits from a get-tough stance.

Before Dilley, CCA’s revenue and profit had been flat for five years. The United States’ population of undocumented immigrants had begun to fall, reversing a decades-long trend, and the White House was looking to show greater leniency toward illegal immigrants already in the country. But under pressure to demonstrate that it still took border issues seriously, the administration took a tougher stance toward newly arriving Central Americans…

For the first years of the Obama administration, the United States maintained fewer than 100 beds for family detention. But by the end of 2014, the administration had plans for more than 3,000 beds, and immigration advocates said the ramp-up had broken with America’s tradition of welcoming those seeking a haven from violence…

…[Yet] CCA had pitched Washington on the idea that it could be an antidote to big government spending…

In forging [the] deal, CCA and ICE faced one major hurdle: the requirement for a public bidding process — one that threatened to significantly delay construction [for a new facility]. So CCA found a workaround…

Mark Fleming, an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, who has reviewed hundreds of federal ICE contracts, said the deal was “singularly unique” and was designed to “avoid transparency”…

Several other experts on federal procurement said that while the government can avoid bidding laws in urgent or national security cases, they had never before seen a facility in one state created with the help of a recycled contract from another.

“This is the arrangement of a no-bid contract by twisting and distorting the procurement process past recognition,” said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law school professor, former solicitor and deputy general counsel of the House of Representatives…

Critics say ICE could have chosen much more cost-effective alternatives. Ankle monitors, which could track asylum seekers as they await court dates, for example, cost several dollars per day…

Border-crossing among asylum-seeking women and children has changed little from two years ago. Over the previous 12 months, according to government statistics, 66,000 “family units” — mostly women and children — have been apprehended at the border, compared with 61,000 in the same period two years earlier.

“What is the root problem? I don’t believe it’s a pull factor so much as a push,” said John Sandweg, a former acting ICE director who left in early 2014, months before the immigration surge. “I do not believe that family detention has been a deterrent”… Read more here

Posted in asylees, funding, ICE, Obama administration, right-wing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Customs and Border Protection maintaining poor conditions at some facilities

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 20, 2016

 

detention

People crowded in “ice boxes”

Unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border can spend hours or days in crowded holding facilities without beds, which many migrants call “hieleras” or “ice boxes” because of the temperature.   These are small concrete rooms with concrete benches. Customs and Border Protection facilities are meant to hold people for short periods before they are transferred elsewhere, usually to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, in the case of unaccompanied minors, to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The images are similar to alarming photos of children and adults in cramped facilities after being apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, at the height of a surge in unaccompanied minors and families coming to the country without authorization. The number of border apprehensions went down in the 2015 fiscal year, but increased in the 2016 fiscal year ― although they are still lower than 2014.  An article at the Huffington Post has the details:

Unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border can spend hours or days in crowded holding facilities without beds, where they huddle for warmth and at times there isn’t enough room for everyone to lie down.

Those conditions are revealed in photos released Thursday as part of a lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection, brought by multiple stakeholders.

The suit alleges that the agency maintains unconstitutionally poor conditions at some of its facilities, which are meant for short-term detention but at times hold people for multiple days. The images from surveillance footage were turned over to lawyers and have now been made public by a judge.

They show that adults and children endure “deplorable conditions” in the holding rooms, which many migrants call “hieleras” or “ice boxes” because of the temperature, said attorney Nora Preciado of the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit…

…a forensic sanitarian…wrote that in his opinion “the unclean, unhygienic, and unduly cold conditions in which people are held at these stations serves no legitimate purpose and creates an unjustifiable risk of harm to detainees”…

…[the] deputy director of research at American Immigration Council…said… “They are typically small concrete rooms with concrete benches and no beds… Read more here

Posted in abuse, asylees, ICE, ORR, U.S. Customs & Border Protection | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Syrian refugee family scattered across world

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 20, 2016

world

A Syrian refugee family in upstate in New York who settled a year ago have found their family scattered across the world. Adult brothers and two older children are in Germany. A sick daughter is in Denmark.  Catholic Family Center apparently initially resettled the family into an apartment infested with roaches. Now that they have a new, infestation-free apartment, however, they find themselves far away from services.  An article at the Democrat & Chronicle has the family’s story:

They came here in July 2015, the very first Syrian refugees to settle in Monroe County…

they learned, they had been accepted into the United States. Their escape from Syria, then, would mean a continued lengthy separation from the rest of the family.

“Of course, I thank America for this humanitarian decision,” Bahzat said. “But I hesitated, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my children again. It was a very difficult decision. … But for the safety of my children who were with me — so they could be safe and study and be away from the war — we decided to come here.”

It was several months before they learned where in the United States they would be going. When they discovered it would be Rochester…

The family first moved into a rental house on Smith Street in northwest Rochester, but relocated to an apartment complex in Greece after a month.

Their Greece apartment has no cockroaches, a significant improvement. On the other hand, getting around with public transportation can be an hours-long affair. To go to the market or their English classes requires multiple buses.

“We were hoping to go to school for English as quickly as possible,” Bahzat said. “(But) we learn about 10 words, then because it’s so tiring with the buses, we just forget”…

Despite their infirmity and lack of English, Bahzat and Atie are expected to seek work or take more classes in exchange for the housing assistance, food stamps and small cash supplement they receive. Those benefits have been interrupted more than once, fraying their nerves. Dilan and their older son, Zana, have both found jobs.

The two younger boys, Zana and Delshad, enrolled in high school in Greece and made the honor roll. The state tests, though, were a disaster. The interpreter that the school provided spoke a dialect of Arabic they did not understand, so they failed in science and math.

They can retake the tests later this summer, but neither boy is prepared because; they have not been attending summer school because the district does not provide universal busing for it and they had no other way to get there…

Generally, the family says they have been welcomed warmly by people they meet. But Dilan, who keeps her head covered, said she has received curses and dirty looks.

“People here shouldn’t judge me regarding my scarf or my clothes; it’s just a part of my religion, and it shouldn’t bother anyone,” she said. “I have heard some people saying bad words (and) staring at me like a stranger. I’m like, ‘What did I do?'”…

Bahzat and Atie’s eldest daughter in Denmark has multiple sclerosis and recurring brain inflammation that sometimes paralyzes her left side, another worry that keeps them awake at night.

“My daughter is sick and I can’t even see her,” Bahzat said. “For a parent, that’s really difficult”… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Family Center (Rochester), rats and roaches, Rochester, Syrian, transportation, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee student education in court this week in Lancaster Penn.

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2016

student

The School District of Lancaster’s treatment of student refugees undergoing court proceedings this week.  In Pennsylvania, local districts run their accelerated credit programs as they see fit without much state oversight or guidance.  An 18-year-old Congolese refugee student involved in this lawsuit finished had senior year that spanned a week, despite English proficiency limited enough to need a translator in court.  He said that he usually couldn’t understand what was said in class, wasn’t allowed to take home textbooks, and didn’t know extra help was available outside normal school hours. The five other refugees have testified to similar experiences.  An article at WITF in Harrisburg, PA gives the details:

(Easton) – The School District of Lancaster’s treatment of student refugees is on trial this week, but practices affecting a wider population of students have come under scrutiny during court proceedings.

A lot of discussion’s centered on the accelerated credit program at Phoenix Academy.

Phoenix, run by district contractor Camelot Education, was portrayed Wednesday as a diploma mill by attorneys representing six teenaged refugees in the lawsuit.

But Lancaster school officials say they send students to Phoenix if they’re at risk for aging out, or not earning enough credits to graduate before they turn 21…

In Pennsylvania, local districts run their accelerated credit programs as they see fit without much state oversight or guidance.

But one student involved in this lawsuit – 18-year-old Congolese refugee Anyemou Dunia – finished high school in 16 months. Dunia’s senior year spanned a week, despite English proficiency limited enough to require a translator in court.

Attorneys presented Dunia’s transcript in court, reading his brief academic timeline off a projection screen:

Junior year ended May 23. Senior year started May 24 and ended June 2.

Dunia’s graduation ceremony wasn’t until Tuesday night and the next day, he testified he wasn’t sure he learned enough to leave school.

Dunia says that he usually couldn’t understand what was said in class, wasn’t allowed to take home textbooks, and didn’t know extra help was available outside normal school hours.

The five other refugees have testified to similar experiences… Read more here

 

Posted in children, Congolese, education, Lancaster | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

LGBTI refugees struggle in Mideast

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2016

oppression

Being a refugee and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) can be a double stigma. LGBTI refugees in the Mideast face a heightened risk of violent abuse, including harassment, arrest, kidnap, torture, rape and even murder, sometimes at the hands of extremists or criminal gangs. There is a lack of data on how many LGBTI people are in need of help, but MOSAIC, a UNHCR partner working with marginalized groups in Lebanon and other parts of the region, says its services have reached 810 LGBTI people so far this year. But that merely scratches the surface. For its part, UNHCR recently rolled out the largest and most comprehensive training package of its kind for staff and the wider humanitarian community working with forcibly displaced LGBTI people. It has also provided an overview of its progress made in protecting LGBTI refugees and others of concern. In Lebanon itself, specialized social workers offer psychological counselling and referrals for medical help – especially post-trauma care. Other help to LGBTI refugees includes shelter, mental health aid, and legal and emergency cash assistance. When necessary the UNHCR resettles refugees. It also works closely with partners like MOSAIC, the ABAAD-Resource Centre for Gender Equality and other national and international NGOs which provide individual and group support to LGBTI refugees. UNHCR and its partners have trained police to help them understand the community’s needs, and recently introduced rainbow ‘safety’ badges to highlight frontline staff trained to respond to the needs of the community.  An article at UNHCR has the story:

BEIRUT, Lebanon – As a transgender woman, Nadia* long struggled to find acceptance in her native Iraq, where years of abuse culminated in her abduction by an extremist militia targeting transgender people.

“They tortured us and beat us severely,” she says, recalling how some of her peers had their orifices sealed up with glue. Several were killed.

After a harrowing flight across the Middle East in search of safety, she is now under the protection of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Lebanon and feels ready for a new start.

“I’ve said goodbye to Iraq forever and it hurts,” she says.

Raised male by a cold mother and an abusive father, Nadia, 23, self-identifies as female. Her flight took her from the sectarian strife of post-war Baghdad to Kurdistan, Iran and now Lebanon. Soon, she hopes to resettle in a new country… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Iraqi, LGBT refugees, Syrian, UNHCR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Most refugees resettled in US in last decade are Christian

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 16, 2016

refugee-count-by-religionAccording to State Department Refugee Processing Center data about 46.5 percent of all refugees resettled into the United States from Jan. 1, 2006, until Dec. 31, 2015, are Christians.  While over 291,285 Christians were resettled, only 192,606 Muslims, 52,423 Hindus, 43,044 Buddhists, and small numbers of other religious groups were resettled during that same time span. In the case of Iraqis, 35 percent of the Iraqi refugees resettled in the US since 2007 have been Christians, a far larger percentage than their population in Iraq. In the case of Syria, however, although Christians represented about 10 percent of the Syrian population before the start of the conflict in 2011, Christians form less than 1 percent of the Syrian refugees being resettled in the United States.  There are several reasons for this, including that refugees currently being resettled are those who have been in line since the start of the war, when Sunni Muslims were the main casualties. Secondly, many Syrian Christian refugees have fled to Lebanon where the US did not have any refugee processing until recently, due to security concerns.  Right wing media outlets, nevertheless, are twisting the facts to make it appear that the US is favoring Muslim refugees. An article in the Christian Post explains the details:

The United States government has resettled more Christian refugees in the last decade than refugees of other religions, even though the nation continues to resettle fewer Syrian Christians than Syrian Muslims.

Much has been made about the low numbers of Syrian Christian refugees that have been resettled into the United States since the beginning of fiscal year 2016…

Although only a minuscule number of Syrian Christian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. over the last year, [Matthew Soerens, the U.S. director of church mobilization for the evangelical refugee resettlement organization World Relief] told CP that there are some “understandable reasons” why Syrian Christians have not yet been resettled into the United States.

…Soerens [said] that most Syrian refugees who have come into the U.S. this year actually fled from their homes years ago when the Syrian civil war began.

“When the war began, it was the Assad government primarily targeting Sunni Muslims. The Assad government hasn’t targeted Christians in particular,” Soerens explained. “They have certainly killed a lot of Christians indiscriminately but in some ways the Assad government has sheltered Christians, which doesn’t mean it is a good government by any means.”

“What we are seeing with ISIS now, that didn’t exist in 2011,” he continued. “I would expect to see the number of Christians increase over time. But they are in this pipeline of vetting”…

Another reason for the disproportionate number of Syrian Christian refugees in the United States is many Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon instead of Turkey or Jordan.

“For quite a long time, the U.S. government wasn’t resettling out of Lebanon for security reasons. That has actually resumed relatively recently. We have seen the number of Syrian refugees pick up in the last few months,” Soerens stated. “A lot of Christians go to Lebanon because it has a larger Christian minority than Turkey or Jordan. But likely for a long time, they weren’t likely to be processed for resettlement”…

…over the last decade, the State Department has resettled far more Christians than people of other religious groups.

According to State Department Refugee Processing Center data that was compiled by World Relief, about 46.5 percent of all refugees resettled into the United States from Jan. 1, 2006, until Dec. 31, 2015, are Christians.

While over 291,285 Christians were resettled into the United States during that time, only 192,606 Muslims, 52,423 Hindus, 43,044 Buddhists, and small numbers of other religious groups were resettled into the United States during that same time span… Read more here

Posted in Christian, Iraqi, Syrian, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Trump calls for ‘Extreme Vetting’ of refugees; US already does it

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 15, 2016

vetting

U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump said in a speech Monday that he would institute “extreme vetting” for refugees to block anyone who would do harm to the country. Trump either isn’t familiar with the federal government’s already existing “extreme vetting” process for refugees or is trying to exploit his audience’s ignorance and fears.  According to the State Department, after first being vetted by the United Nations, applicants go though a laborious process that includes fingerprinting, interviews, photographing, and background checks by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An article at teleSUR explains:

U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump said in a speech Monday that he would institute “extreme vetting” for refugees to catch those who seek to do harm, despite the fact the U.S. already requires the few refugees it allows in from countries like Syria to go through a two-year screening process.

“In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test,” Trump said, reading prepared remarks from a teleprompter. “The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. Those who do not believe in our constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.”

Trump either isn’t familiar with his country’s already existing “extreme vetting” process for refugees or is exploiting his audience’s ignorance. While more than 1 million refugeees arrived in Europe in 2015, the U.S. accepted less than 2,000 Syrians, all of whom were required to go through countless interviews and background checks as part of U.S.’s two-year screening program…

The White House last year published last year a blog with several infographics, which Trump could have easily accessed here before making his comments, showing the lengthy process refugees would have to go through in order to be resettled in the country. “Refugees undergo more rigorous screening than anyone else we allow into the United States,” the blog notes…

Despite the fear mongering, however, “Islamic terror” has been responsible for far less killings in the U.S. than any other source, according to data by New America Foundation released in June.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 28 deadly homegrown terrorist incidents took place in the U.S., with 18 of them carried out by right-wing extremists… Read more here

Posted in Dept of Homeland Security, FBI, right-wing, security/terrorism, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Republican infighting threatens SIV program for Afghan interpreters

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 14, 2016

Democrat vs. Republican on white

There are about 12,000 Afghan translators and interpreters whose immigration applications are in limbo, while fewer than 3,000 SIV (Special immigrant visas) remain.  Efforts in Congress to set aside more special visas are being hampered by Republican infighting. Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, said his quarrel was not with the visa program but rather with the fact that it was getting a vote while one of his own, unrelated measures was not.  Republican senator John McCain responded by accusing Mr. Lee of “signing the death warrants” of people who had put their lives on the line to help the United States.  An article in the New York Times gives the details:

WASHINGTON — Zar Mohammad Stanikzai remembers the promise made to him when he became a translator supporting the United States military in 2012: Help us, and we will keep you safe. Four years later, his fear of Taliban reprisals has made him a prisoner in his Afghan home, he said, and he is still waiting for the Americans to honor their commitment.

 Instead, Congress is bickering over the program meant to be his deliverance.

Republican infighting, infused with nativist tones, has left in question whether a special visa program for translators and interpreters who assisted the military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be renewed, a potentially devastating blow to approximately 12,000 Afghans whose immigration applications are in limbo.

“We’ve really been trying to reinforce the fact to Afghans that we are committed to you, and this gives the enemy some propaganda to say, ‘Hey, these people really aren’t committed to you,’ ” said Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan.

 “It’s our credibility that is on the line,” he added… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, right-wing, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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