Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘New York’ 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 »

Refugees in slumlord housing in Syracuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 27, 2016

slumlord

This is an odd story not because it involves refugees in slumlord housing, which is not unusual, but because a journalist tries instead to play it up as a “taxpayers” issue. It’s not that landlords are under-regulated (“regulation” being a word that he right-wing hates) and can get away with murder; it’s that “taxpayers” are paying you see (maybe section-8, although the article doesn’t give any details). A class-action lawsuit filed in February in Syracuse for more than 40 Somali refugees living at a north-side apartment complex due to a multitude of housing violations. There is no indication if Catholic Charities refugee resettlement agency placed the refugees in the housing or if the refugees moved there on their own. Living conditions include: a hole in a staircase, cockroaches scurrying across kitchens and bathrooms, leaky tubs, broken windows, bed bugs, boarded up, vacant apartments, and trespassers that hang out in the common area doing drugs, leaving behind drug paraphernalia on the ground. Refugees describe helplessness at getting problems fixed. The property management company that handles the apartment building is owned by a well-connected Syracuse man, John St. Denis, who is a donor to Catholic Charities. St. Denis made headlines last year for running a collection agency so bad he’s barred by the state attorney general from ever opening another debt collection business. The apartment complex isn’t St. Denis’ only problem property. There are a reported 21 cases of alleged substandard living conditions at St. Denis’s other properties, ranging from rats to sewage backups. Although obviously refugees are better here in horrible housing than being killed back where they came from, its inexcusable that resettlement agencies don’t monitor these problems and deal with them before they get out of control. (Syracuse is also where refugees have been frequent targets of street crime for six years now.) An article at Syracuse.com has the story:

Syracuse, NY — There’s no heat or water in the dead of winter. Urine and feces dirty the hallways. Children go to school scarred by bedbug bites. Drug dealers take refuge inside busted doors.

This is what America looks like for dozens of refugees, who fled war and persecution to find a North Side [Syracuse] apartment complex that is no refuge.

…[the] owners…haven’t consistently paid water bills, maintained the property or provided adequate security… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities Diocese of Syracuse, housing, housing, substandard, Slumlords, Somali, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacks on refugees in Syracuse delivered with racial slurs

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2016

chinese
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

_violence

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 Syracuse.com 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 »

Longtime office worker steals over $50,000 from Interfaith Works

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 19, 2015

Person with a search symbol in a row

A longtime office worker for Interfaith Works of Central New York has admitted in court to stealing thousands from the resettlement agency over a 7 to 8-year period.  The Syracuse agency is an affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries.  An audit showed that Dorine Deapo, 52, of Syracuse stole a little more than $50,000. She had access to credit cards used to buy items — like groceries — for clients of the non-profit’s programs, and used them to buy gas and other personal items. As long as the worker documented that she spent the money on items for the refugees, a US Department of State monitoring visit probably would not have discovered the theft, since they rely mainly on the agency’s written records, and only interview 3-4 refugee cases at each agency. A monitoring report from 2006, was before the time of the theft.  In 2010 the agency was also the subject of complaints about placing refugees in deplorable housing. An article at Syracuse.com explains:

Syracuse, NY — A longtime office worker for Interfaith Works admitted today to stealing thousands from the non-profit over a 7- to 8-year period.

Dorine Deapo, 52, of Syracuse, pleaded guilty to stealing about $3,000. But that was part of a plea deal that spared Deapo prison. In total, an audit showed she stole a little more than $50,000, said Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren…

The agency was “devastated” by Deapo’s breach in trust, Van Doren said. Deapo had access to credit cards used to buy items — like groceries — for clients of the non-profit’s programs. She ended up using it to buy gas and other personal items, Van Doren said… Read more here

Posted in Interfaith Works, Interfaith Works, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

FL mayor rebukes governor, will accept refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2015

Several Democrat mayors across the nation are defying some of 30 Republican state governors and saying that they will ahead with plans to welcome refugee families to their cities. The governors have attacked the Syrian refugees in trying to stoke fears for political advantage knowing full well that the federal government has 18-24 month – and up to three years – rigorous security checks before allowing refugees in. The mayors of New York City, Louisville, Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City, St. Louis, Charleston, Philadelphia, Sante Fe, New Orleans, Dallas, among other cities, and now Tallahassee are pushing back against the demagoguery. On Friday the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Congress registering support for the U.S. refugee resettlement system. A video and article at WBBH-TV in Fort Myers has more:

Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Florida is not willing to accept Syrian refugees, but Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, told CNN Wednesday his city will continue to be a safe place for refugees.

“I believe strongly that we cannot turn our backs on the refugee community in their time of greatest need,” he said. “The U.S. vetting process for refugees is extremely rigorous, extensive, and comprehensive, and allows us to aid those that pose no threat to our country. Gov. Scott’s stance is driven by divisive politics.”… Read more here

Posted in Dallas/Fort Worth, Louisiana, New Mexico, NYC, Phoenix, security/terrorism, Syrian, Tallahassee | 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 »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014

caution-this-is-sparta_2

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 »

Refugees preyed upon on Rochester NY streets

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014

bullying.

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 »

 
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