Friends of Refugees

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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 »

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 »

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 »

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

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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 »

Federal judge tosses out Alabama anti-refugee lawsuit

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2016

tossed

A judge dismissed Alabama’s lawsuit against the federal government over refugee placement. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Ott on Friday rejected with prejudice Alabama’s claim that federal officials are not consulting with states on refugee placement. A month ago a judge dismissed a similar Texas lawsuit.  An article at WTVN ABC-9 has the details:

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit, filed in January by the State of Alabama, that alleged the federal government had failed to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Chief United States Magistrate Judge John E. Ott dismissed the state’s case with prejudice on Friday, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, released this statement:

“We are pleased the court dismissed this baseless lawsuit, which has already wasted too much taxpayer money. It has been clear from the beginning that Governor Bentley’s attempt to use the courts to keep Syrian refugees out of Alabama was nothing more than a political stunt.

“This lawsuit – and others like it – only stoke Islamophobia in the United States. Welcoming immigrants in desperate need of sanctuary is an American value we must uphold”  … Read more here

Posted in Alabama, court, right-wing, Southern Poverty Law Center, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fact Check: Is there any way to screen Syrian refugees?

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 23, 2016

fact_check

Despite the extensive security screening that refugees must go through before entering the US, Republican politicians and candidates continue to spout the untruth that there is no way to screen Syrian refugees. Actually, Syrian refugees are subjected to an extra level of screening.  Top security experts support resettling Syrian refugees. An article at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the facts:

…While criticizing Hillary Clinton’s support for admitting more Syrian refugees to the U.S., Trump said that “there’s no way to screen” those refugees to determine “who they are or where they come from.” That’s false. All refugees admitted to the U.S. go through an extensive vetting process that involves multiple federal agencies and can take up to 24 months to complete.

The Obama administration pledged to admit up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016 (ending Sept. 30), and Clinton has said that the U.S. should increase that number to 65,000. However, Clinton said the U.S. should increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted “only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine.”

The current process for admitting a refugee to the U.S. is very lengthy. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or sometimes a U.S. embassy, refers a qualified refugee for resettlement in the U.S. After that, there’s an initial multistep security clearance, including the collection of the refugee’s personal data and background information. That is followed by an in-person interview abroad with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has to approve the application. The security clearance involves checking the refugee’s name and fingerprints against several government databases. That’s followed by a medical screening and a pairing with one of the voluntary agencies in the U.S. that sponsors refugees. And, finally, there’s another security clearance to check for any new information. That completes the process.

According to the State Department, the total process from the UNHCR referral to finally being admitted into the U.S. takes 18 to 24 months on average.

And while it may be the case that some Syrian refugees lack the documentation necessary to identify them, that is not the case for everyone. At an October 2015 Senate subcommittee hearing on refugee resettlement, Barbara Strack, chief of the refugee affairs division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that Syrian refugees tend to have “many, many documents”… Read more here

Posted in right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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