Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism’ Category

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 »

Portland ME mayor tells Somali residents they are wanted and needed

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 13, 2016

 

protest

After a recent hate-filled speech in Portland by presidential candidate Donald Trump a rally was convened to speak out against the bigotry. Mayor Ethan Strimling, speaking before several hundred residents, said Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution showed when he spoke, and the mayor embraced those who were offended by the candidate’s remarks. An article at The Forcaster has the story:

PORTLAND — After 20 years in Maine, Mahmoud Hassan has wearied of suspicions cast against Somali immigrants.

“It feels weird, it feels ridiculous, but then again, I am not surprised,” Hassan said Aug. 5 about comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggesting Somalis are a threat to public safety.

As president of the Somali Community Center of Maine, Hassan called for a public response to Trump’s words that grew into an Aug. 5 City Hall rally attended by more than 300 people.

“I don’t think there is a misunderstanding,” Hassan said of Trump. “I think there is political opportunism”…

200 people lined the City Hall steps behind him, some waving copies of the Constitution, Hassan left most of the talking to Somalis who have assimilated in Maine and had little use for insinuations made the day before.

“Shame on you, you are running for the highest office in the land and spreading hate,” Deering High School Assistant Principal Abdullahi Ahmed said…

Mayor Ethan Strimling said Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution showed when he spoke, and the mayor embraced those who were offended by the candidate’s remarks.

“You are welcomed and cherished here. We need you here, so thank you for being here,” he said… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, Maine, right-wing, Somali, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Most Syrian refugees coming to United States are women and children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 12, 2016

women-children

Right-wing politicians, media and bloggers have been trying to distort the Syrian refugee issue by repeatedly beating the drum that most of the refugees are young men “of military age.” If one were to only to watch videos of Syrian refugees entering Europe one might believe that. Those refugees are walking or taking a boat into Europe the same way that Central Americans cross into the US.  Many of the Syrian men brave the boats to set up a footing in European countries before trying to bring their families to join them. Entry to the US via the refugee resettlement program, however, requires being approved by the US government, not walking or sailing across borders.  So far, of the more than 8,000 Syrian refugees admitted to the US so far, 78 percent are women or children, according figures released by the State Department this month.  Some 58 percent are children, with a roughly even split between girls and boys.  Public Radio International has the story:

In a November interview with Fox News, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had a question about the United States’ effort to accept Syrian refugees.

“It’s a total disaster. The people are going to come in,” he told commentator Sean Hannity. “I talked to you about this two weeks ago, where we talked about the migration, how so many of the people in the migration were strong young men. You look at them. I’m saying, Where are the women? Where are the children?”

Now, as it appears that the US will meet President Barack Obama’s goal of admitting at least 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, the makeup of this new refugee population is becoming more clear.

Of the more than 8,000 Syrian refugees admitted to the country so far, 78 percent are women or children, according figures released by the State Department this month. Some 58 percent are children, with a roughly even split between girls and boys… Read more here

 

Posted in children, men, right-wing, Syrian, women, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How could the world sit by while millions of innocent people were killed?

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 11, 2016

halocaust

Why were 83 percent of Americans opposed to the resettlement of Jewish refugees during World War II?  The two main factors of this opposition were economic concerns and fear that communist infiltrators and Nazi spies would “sneak in” with the refugees. Does that sound familiar?  A commentary piece at the Times Argus explains:

The Holocaust. I feel confident that most people reading this column would agree that the Holocaust was an absolute atrocity, one which should never be allowed to occur again. More than 6 million Jews were wiped off the face of the earth during this horrifically dark period in history. If you had been alive during the Holocaust, would you have spoken out against the senseless killing of millions of people? Would you have taken action?

I think we’d all like to believe that we would have stood on the right side of history. But to believe that, we’d have to believe we were in the extreme minority of Americans at the time. The fact is, about 83 percent of Americans were opposed to the admittance of Jewish refugees from Europe during the Holocaust. Why were 83 percent of Americans opposed to the resettlement of Jewish refugees during World War II? The two main drivers of this opposition were economic concerns and fear that communist infiltrators and Nazi spies would “sneak in” with the innocents. Sound familiar?… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

False Facebook posting about refugees followed by death threats

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 27, 2016

deaththreat A false posting on Facebook showing a photo of a four-plex apartment near Corvallis, Montana with a note saying it was “rumored” the building would be used to house refugees led to death threats against the local contractor who built the apartments.  The man targeted said that threats against his life, business and family began to pour in from around the country and Canada.  He left his house in the morning two weeks ago and found a doll made of newspaper with a noose around its neck hanging from his mailbox. Then, last week someone parked in front of his house shortly after 2 a.m., fired several rounds into the air then drove off.  An article in The Missoulian has the story:

When John King picked up the phone in his office last week and saw a call from a number in Oklahoma, he thought it was related to the heavy haul trucks that are part of his Corvallis-based business, J&J Excavating and Trucking. Instead, the caller started the same diatribe King says he’s heard hundreds of times over the past three months.

He said the threatening calls and emails started in late April after one of his employees alerted him to a Facebook post showing a photo of a four-plex apartment his firm built near Corvallis, with a note saying it was “rumored” the building would be used to house refugees.

While the post was taken down within days, King said the “damage was already done.” It had gone viral and King said threats against his life, business and family began to pour in from around the country and Canada… Read more here

Posted in Montana, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

College Station community unites after Mosque shooting

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 22, 2016

unity

The College Station community in Texas has come out in strong support of a local mosque that was found with five bullet holes following gunfire last Friday — no doubt a gift from the political right-wing. The outpouring of support has lifted the spirits of many in the Islamic community. An article and news report at KBTX CBS-3 has the story:

COLLEGE STATION – The community came together Friday to show support for the Islamic Community of Bryan-College Station following gunfire at the mosque early Thursday.

Nimrah Riaz and Shumila Zaidi have grown up at their local mosque. The five bullet holes they found in the building Friday left them shaken.

“When I first heard that, I was in shock,” said Nimrah Riaz. “I’m going to cry it was really sad. My dad was here and he is the most peaceful man in the world. He has given me so much wisdom,” said Shumila Zaidi.

Dan De Leon is a local pastor who coordinated a rally at the mosque in response to the shooting.

“Hatred and violence in the form of gun violence on this mosque is to inflict violence on our entire neighborhood,” said De Leon.

More than a hundred people stood side by side surrounding the mosque during afternoon prayers. Many of the participants were not Muslim but rather supporting their neighbors.

“This won’t be tolerated by this community,” said De Leon.

The outpouring of support has lifted the spirits of many in the Islamic community… Read more here

Posted in crime, hate crimes, Muslim, right-wing, safety, security/terrorism, Texas, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Twin Falls police investigate threats over Fawnbrook assault

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2016

threats

After failing at their disinformation campaign about a child who was sexually abused in Twin Falls last week (there was no gang rape, not at knife point, and not by Syrian refugees) right-wing activists have now turned to making threats against city officials.  Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices.  An article in the Times-News explains:

TWIN FALLS — Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices and made against city officials over the handling of a sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar and Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins have both forwarded threatening messages they received about the incident to police.

Three boys from Middle Eastern families, ages 7, 10 and 14, were involved in the sexual assault against the girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2, authorities have said.

Two of the boys are Sudanese, one Iraqi. The two older boys are facing juvenile charges.

The story started to get national attention about a week ago after the two older boys were taken into custody. Several anti-Muslim and anti-refugee resettlement bloggers wrote about the case, with some incorrectly saying the boys were Syrian or containing details authorities have denied, including saying the assault was a gang-rape and that the boys held the girl at knife-point. Many of them accused law enforcement, city officials and local media of trying to cover up the incident.

“I’ve had my fair share of emails from folks this week sharing their concerns, and a fair amount of just outright lies and wrong information about this very tragic case that’s being handled,” Barigar said Friday.

Barigar said several of the emails and phone messages, “are what I would characterize as threatening personally to me and family”…

“I don’t believe it’s our local citizens doing it,” she said of the threats. Read more here

Posted in FBI, police, right-wing, Twin Falls, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More deceptive attempts to incite anti-refugee sentiments

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 20, 2016

“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Monday morning.

incitement

After two juvenile males were charged for an alleged incident involving a 5 year-old female in Twin Falls in Idaho, right wing blogs and websites manufactured a story supposedly involving a gang rape at knife-point by Syrian refugees. A 7-year-old juvenile male allegedly touched a 5-year-old girl.  A Twin Falls County Prosecutor said Monday morning that, “There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape.”  In addition, the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, which oversees refugee resettlement in the Magic Valley, did not resettle the boys involved, and no Syrian refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls. An article at has the story:

Authorities are denying claims that Syrians gang-raped a child at knife-point in a Twin Falls apartment complex earlier this month.

“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Monday morning.

His comments largely refute several differing accounts about the incident circulating on anti-refugee resettlement, anti-Muslim blogs and conspiracy websites. Most claim a group of Syrian refugees sexually assaulted a mentally disabled girl at knife-point June 2 in the laundry facilities of Fawnbrook Apartments, a low-income housing complex in Twin Falls…

According to prosecutors, three boys were involved, ages 7, 10 and 14, and the alleged victim was a 5-year-old girl..

“All those involved are juveniles, and the older one didn’t touch the victim in any way,” Loebs said. He said only one person is alleged to have touched the victim, but he declined to elaborate.

The prosecutor received a report Thursday from police. Further refuting claims made in the stories online that police bungled the investigation or tried to cover it up, Loebs said the police investigated the incident thoroughly, interviewed everyone who needed to be interviewed and followed proper protocols.

Refugee-resettlement officials called the online stories deceptive attempts to incite anti-refugee sentiments…

…no Syrians refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls… Read more here

Posted in College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, Idaho, right-wing, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Minnesotans oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with message of support

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 6, 2016

Ramadan

The Minnesota Council of Churches is leading an effort to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with a message campaign using yard signs. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors: Blessed Ramadan.” An article at KMSP-TV-FOX-9 has the story:

(KMSP) – In the midst of a presidential election filled with talk of discriminating against Muslims, there is a Minnesota-made campaign to fight Islamophobia.

The Minnesota Council of Churches is distributing yard signs… to assure Muslims as they begin Ramadan that Islamophobia is far from a universal feeling. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors:  Blessed Ramadan.”

“We have extremely radical Christians who sometimes get violent and Jews who sometimes get violent, Hindus, Buddhists, all over the world. In every religion there are those who go to the extreme, [but] the vast majorities do not and we want to signal to our Muslim friends and neighbors that we know that,” Pastor Tim Hart-Anderson of Westminster Presbyterian Church said. 

One of ISIS’s stated goals is to create, through their violence, Islamophobia in the western world and inflame a divide to push the vast majority of Muslims who do not agree with them to eventually join them anyway… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, Minnesota, Minnesota Council of Churches, Minnesota Council of Churches, Muslim, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Public alarm in Twin Falls quelled with facts despite efforts to foment “pocket of resistance”

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 4, 2016

facts

Just the facts

In the present political climate a void free of facts is a perilous thing, especially when it comes to refugees. Extremist opponents have tried hard to foment “pockets of resistance” around the country. In Twin Falls in Idaho, despite a handful of very vocal opponents shouting at city council meetings about speculative “al-Qaeda plots”, the public listened to the facts and decided to support local refugee resettlement efforts, and an anti-refugee initiative failed miserably. An article at The Economist has the details:

THIS has not been a great election season for cool appeals to reason. Few public debates have strayed as far from Socratic ideals of truth-seeking as those involving refugees…Strikingly, some of the loudest calls to bar new refugee arrivals have come from communities that are rarely, if ever, sent refugees from Syria or other high-risk countries…

A distinctively different sort of refugee debate has gripped the small rural city of Twin Falls, Idaho for the past several months…

National alarm over Syrian arrivals found an echo in Twin Falls late last year. A group of locals launched a petition drive to put a formal ballot initiative before county voters, asking them whether they wanted the refugee centre closed. Rick Martin, the owner of a small repair service for medical devices, was the prime mover behind the petition…he [asserted], and there is a “very, very high potential that [Islamic State] sympathisers are in our community right now.”

…His ballot initiative [however] failed woefully…

City elders and defenders of the refugee centre have a different take. They say that they quelled public alarm with the least fashionable of tools: facts. In particular, supporters of the refugee programme point to the impact of a public forum attended by more than 700 people, organised by the Times-News, and addressed by Twin Falls school, public safety and medical officials…

Patiently, the panellists set out the costs and benefits of receiving a few hundred refugees in Twin Falls each year. Refugees are not a burden on the public purse: they are helped to find work fast, and typically the newcomers pay more in federal taxes in a single year than they receive in their one-off resettlement grants…

Refugees are screened for health problems and commit crimes at an exceedingly low rate, panellists added…

…terror groups trying to infiltrate America would find it much easier to send militants who hold European passports, who can visit without visas.

Wiley Dobbs, superintendent of the Twin Falls school district, told the forum how special services for refugees and immigrant children, including two centres that prepare newcomers to learn in American schools, account for 0.42% of his budget. “There was a lot of false information out there,” Mr Dobbs recalls. “The neat thing is, we were just sharing the facts”… Read more here

Posted in College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, legislation, right-wing, Syrian, Twin Falls, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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