Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘Burma/Myanmar’ Category

Relatively conservative state of Iowa seeks to help refugees integrate

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 5, 2016



The Iowa state legislature is looking to pass a bill to expand aid for helping refugees find jobs and learn English. The bill would create a program called RefugeeRISE (Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower) that would be a partnership between AmeriCorps and Iowan refugee groups. The majority of refugees — 75 percent — find work within six months. Research shows that those who have access to services are more likely to become self-sufficient sooner. An article at Think Progress has the details:

Over the past five years, Iowa has resettled 10,000 refugees, mostly from Burma. Now the state legislature is looking to pass a bill that would provide the necessary funding to expand aid to resettled refugees in the state through a partnership between AmeriCorps and Iowan refugee groups.

The partnership is called RefugeeRISE (Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower) and looks to provide refugees with the proper skills to resettle and thrive in their new surroundings. Many of the Burmese refugees in Iowa — a relatively conservative state — have integrated into the local workforce and helped stimulate the state’s economy after finding work at meatpacking and food processing plants…

“This is a huge population who are willing to work hard, raise families, build homes and set down roots in Iowa,” Amy Doyle, a supervisor for the program in Des Moines, told the Register. “Why would we not want to give them the assistance they need?”

The Register reported that, “[t]he vast majority [of refugees] — 75 percent — find work within six months. Research shows that those who have access to services are more likely to become self-sufficient sooner”… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, employment/jobs for refugees, funding, Iowa, legislation, meatpacking industry | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Worcester’s refugee population has 8.6% higher employment rate than native-born citizens

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 12, 2016

As in other cities refugees in Worcester, Massachusetts have excelled economically. Natives’ median income is almost a full $5,000 dollars less per year, and the refugee population has an 8.6-percent higher employment rate than its native-born citizens. Naturalized foreign-born citizens are also more likely to own homes and open businesses than natives. Looking at the State Department Monitoring reports for the three local refugee resettlement agencies,  Ascentria Care Alliance (also known as Lutheran Social Services) has the best record, followed by Catholic Charities, which had a few problems, followed by the Refugee and Immigration Assistance Center, which had a lot of problems. An article in the Worcester Magazine has the details about the progress of refugees in the city:

Worcester has a thriving immigrant population, many of them refugees looking to make a new start. The city, in fact, is the top destination for refugees in New England.

As this two-part series will show, it is not always easy and not always popular, but the influx of refugees can be good for the community and local economy. According to two separate, recent studies, the city is home to nearly 32,000 foreign-born citizens. That’s about 21 percent of its 181,045 residents — no insignificant number. Between 2007-2012, the Department of State reported 2,196 refugees resettling in Worcester. One study was conducted by the Public Policy Center at UMass-Dartmouth (commissioned by the Seven Hills Foundation), the other was by Dr. Anita Fábos, a Clark University associate professor…

Looking at the Seven Hills Foundation study, citizenship is another indicator of success in the immigrant and refugee population. Naturalized citizens’ median household income is $50,865 versus noncitizens, who pull in $37,944 a year. Naturalized foreign-born citizens actually have a higher median household income than native-born citizens. Natives’ median income is almost a full $5,000 dollars less per year, $46,243…

Many people fear that, upon arrival, resettled refugees will begin to receive various welfare benefits and will lack any incentive to become self-sufficient. With all the barriers refugees face — language comprehension, cultural differences, geographical unfamiliarity, among others — it is easy to fall into that mindset. In both the Clark study and the study commissioned by the Seven Hills Foundation, the numbers show a different outcome: the fears appear to be unfounded…

…despite the cards being stacked against them, Worcester’s refugee population has an 8.6-percent higher employment rate than its native-born citizens, Fábos’s study shows…

Naturalized foreign-born citizens are more likely to own homes than natives. They also open businesses; the UMass Dartmouth study puts the percentage of businesses in Worcester owned by foreign-born citizens at 37 percent… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, Lutheran Social Services in Worcester MA, Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (Boston), secondary migration, secondary migration, refugee, Worcester | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arizona Immigrant and Refugee Services inspection

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 25, 2016


State Department monitors visited Arizona Immigrant and Refugee Services (AIRS) in Phoenix in March 2014. They evaluated the resettlement agency as only “partially compliant” with resettlement contract requirements. The agency, an affiliate of the Ethiopian Community Development Council, failed to give language interpretation to refugees. Case note logs contained minimal information describing the progress of each case. Documentation of help with enrollment in English language classes and employment services was missing or late in most case files. Public assistance records were incomplete. The following are excerpts from the monitoring report:

“Monitors visited three refugee families who arrived between November 2013 and January 2014… One family reported…there was no interpreter who spoke their language [when staff picked them up at the airport]. Another family reported that the interpreter at the airport spoke Burmese but not their dialect… Two families reported that they had seem cockroaches in the past but not recently…

…One family reported that staff visited them [only] one time… One family reported that they needed help because there was no one who communicated in their language… Two families did not know their phone number or address or where to go if they got sick. One family did not know how to contact emergency services. Refugees were not sure when their benefits would end and expressed concern about employment.

Monitors reviewed 17 case files… Documentation of assistance with enrollment in English language classes and employment programs…was missing or late in ten files. Four service plans [the initial assessment of employability including the reasons a person may not be employable] were incomplete or inaccurate, and case note logs contained minimal information or details of progress [the date, mode and substance of regular contact with the refugee] during the [Reception and Placement] period.

…One case file contained no post-arrival case notes, and case notes in one file ended two weeks after arrival. School enrollments for children in three families did not occur in a timely manner [within 30 days of arrival]…

Incomplete documentation of enrollment in some services in the case files made it difficult for monitors to confirm that refugees received all core services…” Read more here

Posted in Arizona Immigrant and Refugee Services, Burma/Myanmar, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, ESL & ELL, failure to enroll refugee children in school, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, meeting refugees at the airport, Phoenix, R&P, school for refugee children, Somali, State Department | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City deficient, report indicates

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 13, 2016


US Department of State monitors visited Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City (CCOKA) in February 2014. Although they found the resettlement agency mostly compliant with program requirements there were significant deficiencies. Refugees were living in unsanitary housing, did not appear to be receiving appropriate orientation, and written records were incomplete. Three homes required immediate repairs. Refugees could not recall orientation topics, some refugee children were enrolled late in school, or perhaps not at all, and six files documented late home visits to refugees. Adequate interpretation was not being used. The following are excerpts from the report:

…Monitors visited four refugee families who had arrived between November and December 2013.

…Case files for two families documented that they had received home visits, but case notes did not indicate the use of appropriate interpretation. Three families could not tell monitors the source of the RCA [Refugee Cash Assistance] or MG [Matching Grant] cash assistance they received and referred to it only as “rental assistance.” Three apartments, each located in the same housing complex, needed repairs of some sort: one apartment contained a hole in the bathroom ceiling as well as peeling paint; another apartment included a dangling light fixture above the kitchen sink, a leaky bathroom ceiling with peeling paint, and a bathtub faucet with a continuous leak; one apartment’s smoke detector was not operable and the bathtub faucet leaked. Three families reported an insect infestation, and one family reported an insect and mouse infestation. Two families could not recall what was learned during cultural orientation; in one case, a mother said her son interpreted, in another case a refugee said another refugee who had arrived on the same day interpreted, and in a third case, monitors were told that orientation was not conducted in the refugee’s native dialect. Two families also did not know where to go if someone became sick. One refugee told monitors that she was experiencing significant health issues but had not yet been to the doctor because she believed that her Medicaid was not yet active [instead it had been rejected, so she was unnecessarily waiting to seek medical care].

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…often the date of service could not be determined. Descriptions of core services such as home visits, assistance with enrollment in English language programs, and health assessments were also missing in some files. Two files documented late initial home visits, and four files documented late 30-day home visits, with no reasons noted to explain the delays….three files [did not include] a complete public assistance record….Two files did not contain a record of assistance with enrollment in either employment services or English language programs, and seven files included only referral forms for English classes. Two files documented late school enrollment, with no reason given for the delay… Of the four files containing selective service eligible males, none included evidence of registration.

…two refugees did not know how to access health care, two refugees were still without Medicaid cards. .. Of the 13 files with school-age children, two did not contain clear evidence of school enrollment. Home visits, case file review, and staff interviews indicate that refugees cannot access appropriate language interpretation….

…Apart from the R&P grant, refugees could not explain the source of the cash assistance they received from CCOKA, and indicated to monitors that the funds were strictly designated for rental payments [they are not].

…refugees could not clearly recall receiving orientation and two families could not recall any orientation topics. Three refugees reported not receiving appropriate language interpretation during orientation… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, employment/jobs for refugees, ESL & ELL, failure to enroll refugee children in school, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Medicaid, medical care, Oklahoma, R&P, rats and roaches, school for refugee children, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

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 »

Second Tragic Van Crash in Three Years for Refugees in Jacksonville, Florida

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2015

vancrashIt’s been three years since word of the last passenger van rollover crash involving refugees. In October 2012 there was a van crash outside Jacksonville, Florida.  In that case a car driving the wrong way on Interstate 10 in Baker County struck a van carrying refugees resettled by World Relief who were on the return leg of a 190-mile round-trip to jobs at a chicken processing plant; two refugees were killed and seven injured. Last Friday, almost three years to the day, 17 refugee workers resettled by World Relief in Jacksonville, and traveling in a passenger van to their jobs at the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Suwannee County, were involved in another crash that overturned the vehicle, ejecting multiple unsecured passengers. The 2006 Ford E-350 van, carrying 17, is designed to carry at most 15 passengers.  There has been a series of passenger van rollover accidents involving refugees.  One man has since 2008 advised groups to get rid of all 12-passenger and 15-passenger vans, and replace them with 7-passenger mini vans or school buses, which have a much lower rollover propensity at higher occupant loads.  Articles and video news reports about this recent rollover are found at Action News Jax:

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — Thirteen people are in the hospital after a three-vehicle crash in Columbia County on Friday afternoon. Two of those people are in critical condition.

The crash backed up Interstate 75 northbound…

The Florida Highway Patrol said Pah Kyar was driving a van that was carrying at least 17 foreign workers to their jobs at the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Suwannee County.

According to an FHP report, Kyar was traveling northbound in the center lane of I-75. A Ford F350 truck was in front of a Toyota 4-Runner that were both traveling in the inside lane also heading northbound. FHP says Kyar slowed rapidly in the van and attempted to move to the center median….the 4-Runner was unable to avoid Kyar’s rapid deceleration and lane change. The front end of the 4-Runner struck the rear of the van driven by Kyar sending the van into the median. The van overturned and multiple unsecured passengers were ejected, the report says. Kyar was cited for an improper lane change and was not injured in the crash.

“Due to the fact that there were ejections and it sounds like there was multiple people in the vehicle – upwards to possibly 17 – we’re thinking obviously that there were many not wearing seatbelts,” said FHP Sgt. Tracy Pace.

Action News Jax checked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and found the 2006 Ford E-350 driven by Kyar is designed to carry a maximum of 15 passengers.

Pace said the workers are from Myanmar and Nepal.

Ten people in the van were driven to the hospital. Three more were airlifted… Read more here


COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — The Wah family is just one of the families recovering from a crash that happened on Interstate 75 in Columbia County on Friday.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 17 people were in the van when it crashed with another vehicle and a tow truck.

World Relief in Jacksonville said those in the van were all refugees and were headed to work at Pilgrim’s Pride…
Pilgrim’s Pride said the van that was involved in the crash was not theirs. Koirala said the van is what the refugees personally used to carpool to work.

World Relief said there was a fatal crash back in 2012 when refugees were returning home from work at Pilgrim’s Pride… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Jacksonville, meatpacking industry, Nepali Bhutanese, passenger van roll-over, poultry production, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Buffalo’s West Side refugees continue to endure violent assaults & break-ins

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 4, 2015

paralyzed_stickmanA continuing series of violent assaults and break-ins are afflicting the refugee population in Buffalo, NY. These issues were already front and center four years ago when resettlement agencies attacked the messengers by criticizing filmmakers who helped bring forward this very issue with a film. In 2012 the violence against the refugees continued. Now critics are saying that Buffalo police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenges, including: language barriers, a lack of translators and refugees’ distrust of police related to abuse in their homelands. The issue of using refugees to counter population declines in troubled areas of the nation is also a central issue here. Dozens of frustrated Burmese have now gone public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting. An article in The Buffalo News tells more:

Other than the privacy curtain, it could pass for a hotel room. Clean and bright, there is a bedside table, a lamp, a bureau and a flat-screen TV. K’Paw Wah leaned back on his pillow…TV remote in hand, switched channels to a basketball game…

For most, it is a simple hand movement. For Wah – reed-thin, with stark cheekbones and flowing black hair – it is a triumph of will and spirit.

Only after laborious therapy has the Burmese immigrant of Karen ethnicity regained movement in his right arm. The comfortable room is not in a hotel, but in Terrace View nursing home near Erie County Medical Center. Wah has been hospitalized since a mugging last June left him paralyzed, a disheartening symbol of the assaults and break-ins afflicting the immigrant population on Buffalo’s West Side.

The county executive last week celebrated the recent influx of immigrants, which has staunched the county’s three-decade population bleed. The other side of the immigrant story is K’Paw Wah. He was born and raised in a Thai refugee camp, after his parents fled from oppressive Burmese rulers. He and his two daughters four years ago followed his older brother to Buffalo.

Wah’s dream of freedom ended violently. Heading home from a West Side convenience store late one night, he was jumped by at least two men with, he recalled, “their faces covered.” The attackers, Wah told me in halting but clear English, threw him hard to the ground, breaking his neck.

The thieves took his cellphone but, more than that, left him imprisoned in his body. Friends say he only recently regained movement in one arm and can stand at a walker while supported. Despite recent gains, he likely will always be physically dependent. No arrests have been made…

Wah’s fate is the grimmest reminder of the fragility of the immigrant population. Buffalo’s West Side is the end point for Burmese, Somalis, Burundi and other newcomers. Circumstances render them vulnerable and tough to protect. Language barriers, a lack of translators and a distrust of police related to abuse in their homeland contribute to their problems. Critics say police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenge. Dozens of frustrated Burmese went public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting… Read more here

Posted in Buffalo, Burma/Myanmar, police, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fire destroys all belonging of Albany refugee family

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 28, 2015

Fire-iconA Karen refugee family (from Myanmar/Burma via Thailand) in Albany, NY said they had complained to their landlord of smoke and a burning electrical smell. The landlord hired a handyman who replaced electrical outlets in the living room and in the parents’ bedroom, however, the family claim they saw burn marks on one of the electrical receptacles the handyman replaced. An outlet in the children’s bedroom was not replaced. A month later during the night of March 16th the children woke up to find flames engulfing their bedroom. The parents succeeded in getting all the children and the extended family out of the apartment. The landlord and his family in an upstairs apartment also escaped, and the house then burned to the ground. The fire destroyed all the family’s belongings, including a 19-year-old’s passport, other legal documents and $4,000 in cash he needed for a planned trip to Thailand to arrange his marriage to a woman in a refugee camp. The Albany Times-Union has the story:

Albany – The 9-year-old boy was awakened when it became uncomfortably hot as he slept, and his 7-year-old sister thought she was dreaming of bright orange shapes climbing up the bunk bed they shared.

By the time the wailing smoke alarm awakened their parents in an adjoining bedroom, flames had engulfed the bunk bed and were spreading across the children’s bedroom.
The 29-year-old mother scooped up the 2-year-old sleeping near her bed while her husband raced down the hall to guide their children and his wife’s brother and mother out of the smoke-filled apartment.

“Everything we owned was in there and now it’s gone,” said the woman…

All seven members of her Burmese refugee family escaped from the first-floor, two-bedroom apartment shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday [March 16] … in a row of two-family homes

The landlord and his family in the upstairs apartment also escaped from the conflagration that burned through the roof and destroyed the building.

All the belongings of the family — whose parents grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to Albany several years ago — were destroyed. The woman’s 19-year-old brother lost $4,000 in cash, his passport and other legal documents he needed for a planned Friday flight to Thailand to arrange his marriage to a woman in a refugee camp he hopes to bring to Albany…

They did not have renter’s insurance. [The woman] said she did not know what that is

[She] said she had complained to the landlord a month ago of smoke and a burning electrical smell. He hired a handyman who replaced electrical outlets in the living room and in the parents’ bedroom. The woman said she saw burn marks on one of the electrical receptacles that was replaced. The outlet in the children’s bedroom was not replaced…

Three firefighters were injured, none seriously, and are out of work…
On Wednesday afternoon, a large pile of rubble where the two-family home had been was covered with plastic tarps, which flapped in a cold wind… Read more here

Posted in Albany, apartment building fires, children, housing, Karen, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »