Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘dangerous neighborhoods’ Category

Resettlement to poor neighborhoods increases chance of Type 2 diabetes

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 28, 2016


We know that resettling refugees to impoverished areas may result in refugees being exposed to higher levels of crime, e.g. in Oakland, Rochester and Utica. Now a study from Sweden correlates resettlement of refugees to impoverished neighborhoods with later development of Type 2 diabetes. Refugees that the government resettled in the most deprived neighborhoods were 15% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas. An article in the International Business Times has the details:

A study looking into the health of migrants has found those who initially settled in a deprived neighborhood are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

The research was the result of an initiative by the Swedish government, which haphazardly dispersed refugees across the country with different levels of poverty and unemployment, schooling, and social welfare participation…

People who had been resettled in the most deprived neighborhoods were 15% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas.

…Justin White, one of the study authors, said: “We found that living in a high deprivation neighborhood led to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to living in the least deprived areas. Although the increased risk was small, we found that the effect accumulated over time.”

He has pointed out to various factors that explain the link between the neighborhood and its health effects — such as increased exposure to stress from living in high crime area, or poor employment opportunities resulting in not enough money to buy proper good food, or not being able to walk safely outdoors…

…”It shows the decisions these governments make now will have long-lasting impacts on the lives of refugees… Read more here

Posted in dangerous neighborhoods, health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Heartland Alliance leaves refugees in the lurch, again

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 12, 2016


US Department of State monitors visited the Heartland Alliance resettlement agency in July 2012. Documentation of services in some case files was incomplete, so that monitors could not determine compliance with requirements. Issues including late first and/or second home visits, a refugee not feeling safe in his neighborhood (issue goes as far back as year 2000; again in 2002), and apartments with bed bugs, cockroaches, and mice. The following are excerpts from the the report:

Monitors visited a single refugee, a couple, a family of six, and a mother and her adult child. All arrived between March and May of 2012, and all had US ties.

Monitors reviewed 20 case files… In 13 case files, the second home visit was conducted well beyond the 30-day requirement, sometimes occurring as much as two months after arrival. Three files documented the original home visit as late, and in two files the initial home visit was not documented anywhere in the file. Case files…many core services checklists were missing detail regarding orientation……in two files the summaries did not include refugee signatures acknowledging expenditures. Of the three case files that included males between the ages of 18 and 26, two did not include evidence of assistance with [Selective Service] registration… Case note logs…many were missing details regarding home visits, orientation, and health screenings…

Three families did not have adequate clothing storage. One refugee told monitors that he did not feel safe in his neighborhood… One family had bed bugs; one family told monitors they had bed bugs, cockroaches, and mice; and one refugee said he had seen a few cockroaches. …two [case files] documented late home safety orientations….

…Seven case files reviewed did not include evidence that refugees received orientation and four files documented refugees received complete registration beyond the [required] 30-day timeframe (sic)… Read more here

See also:

Posted in bed bugs, Burma/Myanmar, Chicago, community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, furnishings, lack of, Heartland Alliance, home visits, housing, Iraqi, late health screenings, Nepali Bhutanese, R&P, rats and roaches, safety, State Department, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center in Worcester only “partially compliant”

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 9, 2016


U.S. Department of State monitors visited the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC) in Worcester in October 2013 and assessed the agency as only “ partially compliant” with requirements. Apparently, RIAC did not have to pay any fines or face other serious consequences for leaving refugees without needed services, as is typical. The agency failed to use proper interpretation, failed to use car safety seats when transporting small children, and apparently placed refugees in apartments with leaking ceilings and mice infestations. In another apartment, monitors observed a hole in the bathroom wall, a broken window, and closet door off its hinges. Two of the families visited were not provided bed frames for all the beds in the apartments. Read excerpts below from the monitoring report:

Monitors found Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC) of Worcester partially compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements. …appropriate language interpretation was not always used. Case files did not always contain complete public assistance and financial records. Three of the homes visited had rodent infestations and needed repairs. Refugee visits…the substance of these contacts was not always recorded in the case notes. The affiliate was not obeying local motor safety laws when transporting small children, and refugee minor files were incomplete…

Monitors visited four refugee families who arrived between March and June 2013. Two of the families visited did not receive appropriate interpretation when met at the airport…

Three out of the four apartments visited had mice infestations and bathrooms with several water-stained ceiling tiles. One family reported a leak in the bathroom ceiling, and the other two families stated the ceilings were already damaged when they moved into the apartments. One family reported that they do not feel safe in their neighborhood at night because they heard that a refugee had been robbed and beaten in the middle of the afternoon after cashing a check at a nearby bank… Another family reported that a broken kitchen chair was initially provided, and then discarded, and never replaced by the affiliate. In another apartment, monitors observed a hole in the bathroom wall, a broken window, and closet door off its hinges. Two of the families visited were not provided bed frames for all of the beds in the apartments and a view of their case files showed no reasons given for their absence.

Although case file reviews indicated that all refugees were given orientation by the affiliate, two families reported that they only received orientation about life in the U.S. when they were still overseas, and a third family stated that the U.S. tie who accompanied them to the orientation was not sufficiently fluent in English to interpret and that appropriate language interpretation was provided by RIAC. [Only] two families visited had members who were able to recount some orientation topics.

…The two families with small children reported that the affiliate did not use car seats when transporting their children in motor vehicles…

A single mother with a disabled son became emotional during the monitors’ visit…the refugee and RIAC staff told monitors that they often communicated with each other in English, which the refugee does not fully understand, or relied on one of her children, also not fluent in English, to interpret.

No case files contained documentation that refugees understood key orientation objectives… Read more here

Posted in beds, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, disabled refugees, ECDC, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, furnishings, lack of, household items, missing or broken, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Nepali Bhutanese, rats and roaches, Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (Boston), State Department, Worcester | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities of Orange County broke almost every rule in the book

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 6, 2016


Perusing a batch of US Department of State inspection reports recently received through a FOIA request it appears that Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) violated most of the requirements of their refugee resettlement contract. The State Department rated the agency [in 2014] as “mostly non-compliant” with requirements. CCOC left refugees with urgent medical issues on their own to find expedited medical care.  Children were not enrolled in school.  A refugee family was in an apartment that was unsafe and unsanitary. CCOC had refugees sign blank service plans; apparently to be filled in later. Staff did not understand the basics of the refugee grant requirements, and expected refugees’ ties [friends or family members that refugees have been resettled to live near] to provide basic services. A case manager did not even know of the existence of the Cooperative Agreement. CCOC did not have any volunteers to help assist refugees. Read below excepts from the report:

Monitors found Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) mostly non-compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

The affiliate does not use any volunteers…

…monitors visited one family whose children were not yet enrolled in school after over two months; another family who did not receive any assistance from the affiliate to make expedited medical appointments despite a child with epilepsy and a parent with heart disease (they complained to monitors that the affiliate showed little concern for their well-being); and a third family who described the apartment the affiliate secured for them as unsafe and unsanitary. Refugees visited did not recall receiving any [cultural] orientation and staff did not demonstrate a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements, and implied basic needs support and core service delivery was the responsibility of the US tie…

One refugee family [mentioned above] told monitors that they felt unsafe in the apartment the affiliate found for them after their US tie could no longer provide any assistance. They said homeless people often loitered on the front steps and neighbors often acted loud and drunk; consequently the father did not feel safe leaving his wife and young children alone during the day to look for work. The apartment had a clogged drain in the kitchen sink, a flickering overhead fluorescent light, and a purported insect infestation; all had been reported to the landlord [apparently to no effect]. The couple and their baby and toddler shared one small bedroom that scarcely fit a full size bed and a crib…the family have arrived close to three months before the monitors’ visit and was not enrolled in the Women’s, Infants, and Children (WIC) program…

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…case files did not contain evidence beyond a referral that the affiliate assisted refugees with enrollment in English language programs or employment services within ten working days of arrival. Eight files indicated that health assessments occurred beyond the required 30 days, and two files did not contain any evidence of a health screening…

Complete service plans were found in all but two files, which contained blank plans signed by the refugee… Read more here

Posted in beds, California, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Orange County, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, dangerous neighborhoods, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, health, home visits, housing, housing, overcrowding, housing, substandard, Iranian, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, medical care, rats and roaches, safety, Slumlords, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacks on refugees in Syracuse delivered with racial slurs

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2016

As part of the ongoing attacks on refugees in Syracuse that resettlement agencies and the US State Department have know about for at least six years, refugees say that attackers are using racial slurs. An article at Time Warner Cable News has the details:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Nancy Ayea was resettled in Syracuse as a refugee from Burma, looking for a better life. But there have been obstacles to starting over.

“Our house got broken into and our window got broke into,” said Ayea. “And they took whatever they could find to resell it. My laptop and all that.”

And although she’s not a refugee herself, Kayla Kelechin’s husband was resettled from Southeast Asia. She says she and her husband have been victimized because of his background.

“There were stones being thrown through our windows,” said Kelechin. “We see them coming to our yard and attacking our children. They’ve thrown stones at our children and they’re like “Chinese, Chinese.” It always has to do with a racial slur. So we know it’s not the whole neighborhood — it’s us”… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, children, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees continue to suffer abuse and violence on Syracuse’s North Side

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 25, 2016


Myanmar and Bhutanese refugees continue to suffer abuse and attacks on Syracuse’s North Side. Cases of home invasions and severe beatings. These attacks have gone on at least since 2009, yet the US State Department has continued to place the refugees in these neighborhoods, with around 1,000 refugees moving into the neighborhood each year.  Refugee children have also suffered attacks in school. I wrote to the PRM’s Assistant Secretary about this issue back in 2010.  An article at has the story:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A decade after fleeing an ethnic conflict in Asia, Chandra Pradham and his family are facing a different kind of violence on Syracuse’s North Side.

Pradham, his wife and three children fled Bhutan in the 1990s and spent more than a decade in a refugee camp in Nepal. Three years ago, they made it to Syracuse where Pradham and both of his teenage sons have been beaten up while walking in their neighborhood. Pradham spent a day in the hospital last month after a particularly brutal attack.

Among refugees, the Pradhams aren’t alone.

In the past several years, refugees on the North Side have reported beatings, robberies and home invasions. Lately, police and community leaders are coming together to address the problem… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Assistant Secretary of the PRM, Burma/Myanmar, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014


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 »

Attacker of Albuquerque Iraqi Catholic refugee yelled anti-Muslim obscenities

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 17, 2014


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


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 »

Refugees abused at Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 15, 2014


A gentleman who contacted us back in April (history is here and here) about conditions for refugees resettled via Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville contacted us again recently to give an update and more information.

He said there have been at least five injuries of refugees at the factories where they were placed by the temporary employment agencies that Bridge uses to get refugees employed.

One refugee reportedly injured his shoulder at work and Bridge would not do anything to help. An Ethiopian refugee broke his hand at Quality Bakery Products. African refugees were also injured at Ifco Systems pallets division in Knoxville. Again, the agency would not help. Another refugee injured his lungs, inhaling a chemical at a Cooper Standard factory (production of plastic automobile bumper parts). Yet another refugee passed out at that factory, also due to the chemicals. He now coughs a lot and has respiratory problems. A third refugee who worked at the factory developed a rash on his body, which may have been due to the chemicals used there. Yet another refugee, an older Iraqi gentleman, severely injured his shoulder pushing a heavy cart at the Goodwill warehouse on Middlebrook Pike. The cart came back at him and he put his arms out to stop it. He needed surgery to repair the shoulder and was off work for months. He said Goodwill treated him well so he decided not to sue. At Custom Food Inc. exposure to spices caused sinus problems for an Ethiopian refugee who has allergies. He requested to switch jobs but Bridge’s employment coordinator refused to help him. Finally, at Propak Logistics’ pallets repair section many Iraqi refugees reported injuries for years to Bridge’s employment coordinator but the coordinator ignored their complaints and sided with the company against the refugees.

Bridge has arranged work via Express Employment (and Adico), for whom the refugees work. Many refugees sign papers not knowing what they are signing; some do not read English. Under this arrangement with Express a factory pays $9 per hour but refugees only get a bit more than $7 per hour. The work is unstable, with refugees working a week and then being off a week.

A former case manager also sent us information about the agency and pointed out that the refugee employment figures are dishonest as most of the refuges have only temporary employment that does not help them to pay rent and be self-sufficient. The nature of the temp jobs also means that the refugees will be unemployed just a short time after the agency reports them employed to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at 90 days and 180 days. (This, however, is a problem throughout the refugee program, and it doesn’t seem that the the ORR has much of an interest in requiring that resettlement agencies report if refugees are working at temporary or non-temporary jobs.)

Many of the interpreters quit in 2012 and 2013 after the agency’s officer manager lowered their pay from $10 per hour to $8, and since that time the agency has picked the refugees up at the airport upon their arrival without interpreters for refugees from Myanmar (Burma) and Africa. The agency then takes the refugees to their apartments and gives flawed home safety orientation involving just pointing to things and turning things on and off in an attempt to show them how things work. It then takes weeks before they find an interpreter. When the case manager voiced his concerns about this to the office manager she responded that it was case managers’ responsibility to bring an interpreter. He asked her how he could use one that is not contracted. She said they would look into but that it was his responsibility to get one and that it was okay to have a volunteer interpreter.

These refugees don’t receive proper attention because nobody can communicate with them. The African refugees compared services the agency was giving them to other refugees and realized they were receiving fewer services and less attention in all areas. As a result, when the African refugees started their own organization to help their own community they refused to work with Bridge.

The case manager points out that the Bridge office in Chattanooga is more organized than the office in Knoxville due to the qualifications, dedication and experience of the office coordinator in Chattanooga. She comes in everyday at 8:30 am and leaves at 4:30 pm unlike the one in Knoxville who comes in at 9am or 10am and sneaks out around 2pm-3pm yet submits weekly time sheets indicating 40 hours of work. The agency lists the working hours on the door as 8:30am to 4:30pm, yet if refugees and others come in at 8:30am the only people they find are the financial manager and the case managers. If the case managers are not there the office stays closed until 9:30am.

The  Knoxville office manager also wastes staff time with pointless staff meetings early on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Friday they have two staff meetings; one for the Executive Director with meeting agendas that contain her personal events such as her son’s birthday and her marriage anniversary, and a second meeting with the office manager. The meetings consume most of the day until 2pm, at which time the Director and the office manager leave the office to go home while the rest of the staff stay to finish their paperwork, as Friday is supposed to be a day for that and not for meetings.

The case manager tried many times to tell the administration that their everyday meetings are just a barrier that prevents them from doing their jobs but the office manager insisted on enforcing these meetings. He said she has no management skills and is only in the office manager position because the Director of Bridge is her close friend. The office manager also told the staff that no one is allowed to communicate with the agency’s board of directors, EMM and CWS (Bridge’s national affiliates), or TOR (Tennessee Office for Refugees); this to prevent any leaks of information to those organizations.  He said anyone who dares to violate that rule knows they may face retaliation and lose their job.

He also reports that Bridge is placing refugees in apartments in a bad downtown neighborhood with a lot buying, selling and use of street drugs. The apartments have carpeting that smells bad, broken plumbing, and heavy insect infestations.

Transportation of refugees was yet another area of violation by the agency. A van donated in 2011 used to transport refugees had mechanical problems in the steering wheel as well as no air-conditioning. The case manager told the managers that the vehicle was not safe to use but it was clear to him that money in the budget for their salaries (the director and the office manager who do not even work the full-time they are supposed to work) was more important than refugee safety issues. The heat inside the vehicle was so unbearable in the summer months that a staff member was overcome by the heat and had to be taken to the ER by ambulance. The agency only stopped using the van and sold it to the junkyard when the major mechanical problem in the steering wheel prevented it from being driven.

He pointed to another serious problem – that the agency did not have a shredder for years until recently in 2013. He used his own shredder that he brought from home. He says that every-time he spoke to the current administrators to give the staff a shredder they ignored him just as the previous executive director did when he told her a case manager who quit in 2010 threw boxes filled with confidential papers in the trash. She wasn’t concerned so he and another staff member dived in the dumpster to recover those boxes. The current administrators also do not care if staff use their own equipment to get the job done, such as their own laptops and other devices needed – a violation of HIPAA policy (privacy law). The agency is also violating the HIPAA policy by having unauthorized people being involved with refugee clients’ personal medical information, e.g. the office manager talks about the clients’ medical issues in front of her husband who often comes to the office.

The agency is run so poorly by the current administration, and with a lack of supervision from the board of directors, that the most highly qualified and decorated case workers have quit the agency since 2010 – in 2010 three case workers quit; in 2011 two quit; and three in 2013. In early 2013 the only two case managers left quit in the same month due to the hopeless situation with the management.

By the way, the most recent State Department monitoring report for this agency seems to have occurred back in 2006 — at least that is the most recent one that the State Department has released to us. The agency had a different director and case managers at that time.

Posted in abuse, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Burma/Myanmar, Burundian, community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, employment abuses, employment/jobs for refugees, Ethiopian, home safety orientation, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, Knoxsville, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, rats and roaches, transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »