Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

Refugee teen bullied in Syracuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 1, 2013


A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo reports that when she arrived in Syracuse for resettlement she was bullied in high school. She fell back on her survival skills from back home and eventually summoned the courage to stand up for herself. A resettlement agency in the city also reports that it can no longer find refugees steady work “en masse” with manufacturing employers who have now left the area (of course the State Department refugee contract individualized case management requirement should not have allowed such an approach to begin with). WRVO Public Media has the story:

…For Lorina Mpinga, who was a teenager when she arrived from D.R.C, figuring out high school without knowing English proved to be a massive challenge.

Mpinga was bullied her first year in high school. She had a hard time standing up for herself at first without English language skills, but eventually got the courage.

“I have to make sure I tell them and let them know who I am, not a little scared girl and I don’t want to live a life of being scared of going to school every day,” she said.

Asked whether or not being bullied as a teenager put a damper on coming here, Mpinga quickly dismisses the idea.

“I know, from before, that you always have to stand up for yourself” and being a teenager anywhere in the world is tough, she added…

City officials recognize the refugee community as a source of new population and key to revitalizing the Northside, but for now it’s still a working class neighborhood that has its fair share of crime and vacancy…

the factory jobs that used to be open to immigrants with little or no English are gone.

…the factory jobs that used to be open to immigrants with little or no English are gone.

“There are no places like G.E. anymore, there are no places where you could move up doing a manual labor type job [and] all you need is training basically,” Susan Ohlsen from InterFaith Works said.

Job training programs run through various non-profits help new Americans get jobs in health care or construction, but finding refugees steady work en masse is a challenge, according to Ohslen… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, employment services, Interfaith Works, Interfaith Works, schools, Syracuse, teens | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Karen Refugee teens fight back to ward off local gangs

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 8, 2012

About 300 Karen refugees have settled in San Diego. Unfortunately, bullies and gangs are targeting many of the young people. Recently there was a large street fight targeting Karen refugees in the City Heights section of San Diego. To address the violence a former police officer has started a leadership academy for the Karen young people where they each formulate a goal and how they plan to achieve it. A video report from KGTV ABC-10 News has the story:

SAN DIEGO – A peaceful group of Karen people from Burma came to City Heights to escape the Burmese Army.

Now, they have a different kind of fight on their hands as they ward off local gangs.

10News obtained cell phone video which showed a violent street fight targeting the refugees.

Once former police officer Kevin LaChapelle saw the video on YouTube, he sprung into action. Earlier this year, he launched a leadership academy where each participant states a goal and how they plan to achieve it.  

LaChapelle is also trying to keep the Karen kids from being recruited into local gangs… Read more here

Posted in Karen, safety, San Diego, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bullying in Baltimore

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 5, 2012

“Welcome to America” is being served as a derisive cheer in Baltimore against refugee and asylum seeker kids when American kids score points in soccer matches. In the neighborhoods in Baltimore where they are being resettled  they continually fear petty theft, bullying and worse (two Nepali Bhutanese refugees were shot last summer; one died), and often feel so anxious that when they come home, “they sit with the lights off to avoid contact with the outside world.” So reports the executive director of Soccer Without Borders Baltimore, Jill Pardini, in an article in The Baltimore Sun:

“Welcome to America.” It’s a traditional greeting that implicitly embodies notions of acceptance, hope and opportunity.

But that simple phrase can also be used as a taunt, as I witnessed during a youth soccer game in Baltimore where the teams were starkly divided by race, religion and language.

“Welcome to America” served as a derisive cheer hurled across the field when the fairer-skinned team scored against a team made up of refugees and asylum seekers from Nepal, Bhutan, Iraq, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Guinea. It was perhaps the most creative insult (but far from the first) we have experienced since forming our teams of young refugees in 2009…

…The neighborhoods they live in make them so anxious that when they are home, they often sit with the lights off to avoid contact with the outside world. When forced to face the city for school or work, they fear petty theft and bullying. In some cases, refugees face assault and even death, as we saw in the murder and robbery last summer of a Bhutanese refugee who had been here only two months.

The kids I work with through the nonprofit organization Soccer Without Borders Baltimore are more resilient and more ambitious than anyone I know. These kids and their families have landed in Baltimore after a long and arduous bureaucratic refugee resettlement process, sometimes after years in camps, only to end up in a community that can’t seem to protect them, doesn’t seem to be interested in getting to know them, yet expects them to become productive citizens and help solve the city’s longstanding ailments.

There has been a lot of talk about Baltimore becoming more open and welcoming to new Americans — both refugees and immigrants. An executive order signed by the mayor encourages support for newcomers. But if the experiences I have seen, both on the soccer fields of Baltimore and in the surrounding communities, are typical, we have a lot of work to do… Read more here

Posted in Baltimore, children, dangerous neighborhoods, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The downside of resettling large numbers of refugees in a location in a relatively short period

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 9, 2011

An in-depth article on the events surrounding the December 2009 attack on dozens of Asian refugee children at a south Philadelphia school, that resulted in 13 refugee children taken to the emergency room, reveals the extent that teachers, the principle, security guards and other staff were present and unresponsive as the attacks occurred. Refugee students report that the principle disappeared while walking children home just before vicious beatings took place. Teachers and cafeteria staff called the students “Yo Dragonball” or “Yo Chinese” and even mocked their accents. The School District of Philadelphia also apparently has an ongoing pattern of unresponsiveness to reports of students bullying refugee students, despite an early 2011 settlement with the Justice Department.

The article also points to relatively large number of refugees from Burma/Myanmar that the State Department resettled in a relatively short period, which the school district was not ready to accommodate. These are some of the considerations the State Department needs to make when reading glowing annual resettlement proposals from their private resettlement contractors

We should not underestimate the catastrophic long-term damage to refugees resulting from these brutalities during their formative years. The article points out that bullying can lead to a lifetime of low self-worth, suicide attempt or depression, and that doesn’t even consider the trauma, tumult and deprivation that refugee have already endured before their resettlement. Hyphen Magazine magazine published this article:

On a cold December day in 2009, just weeks before Christmas, 15-year-old Trang Dang was walking home from school with her sister and eight friends, all recent Vietnamese immigrants. Also part of their group: the principal of their school.

Dang, who is 5’9” with a medium build and a dimpled, contagious smile, asked the principal to accompany them because she and the others were terrified by the intense bullying and violence against Asian students that had taken place earlier that day at their school, South Philadelphia High School. Midway through the walk, the principal, LaGreta Brown, disappeared, Dang said. “She walked to the corner with us and then we didn’t see her anymore,” Dang said. They debated whether to stay or continue walking. “Our friends said if we stand here, we’ll get in trouble,” Dang said. So they opted to try to make it home that day on their own.

They never did.

About half a block from school, a mob of at least two dozen students started chasing them. Dang was the first to be caught. She was punched in the face, shattering her glasses. “It was a quick hit and then they ran,” she said. “After I got hit, then my mind just went blank. I was crying. It wasn’t that painful, I think, but I don’t really remember. I think because I’ve tried to forget about that day.” The entire group was cornered, and all were hit. Dang still doesn’t know for sure why the principal seemingly left the group…

…The entire day, roving gangs of high schoolers searched for and attacked Asian teenagers in a nightmarish ordeal. Most of the attacks took place on the premises of this poor school in south Philadelphia while teachers, security guards and other staff were present.

In total, at least 26 Asian immigrant students were physically assaulted in a series of violent conflicts. Thirteen Asian students ended up in the emergency room for injuries ranging from a broken nose to black eyes. One had to have surgery because he could no longer breathe through his nose…

…Some speculate that the ethnic tensions at the school can be attributed to lack of adult intervention, adults modeling bad behavior such as racially charged name calling, stereotypes and an influx of Asian students in a relatively short time period without the school or district adequately addressing the changes…

…In the last five years, there were 534 documented assaults at the school, more than any other in the district…

…In some cases, bullying can lead to thoughts of suicide, according to Eliza Noh, an Asian American studies professor at California State University, Fullerton, who has studied suicide among Asian Americans. “Some Asian American women I interviewed reported being victims of racist bullying when they were young, contributing to their low self-worth, suicide attempt or depression later in life,” Noh said. Liu pointed out bullying victims are essentially trauma victims who experience post-traumatic stress disorder similar to war veterans. He warned that young people may experience psychosomatic symptoms like feeling ill, as well as hypervigilance, heightened startled responses, depression and social withdrawal… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, capacity, children, dangerous neighborhoods, Dept. of Justice, FBI, mental health, Philadelphia, safety, schools, State Department, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee boy repeatedly brutalized at Philly school, complaints to school officials fall on deaf ears

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 21, 2011

Once again a school in Philadelphia is the subject of a case involving a refugee child beaten so badly that he had to go to a hospital. A year ago 30 Asian refugee children went to the hospital after just one bullying incident. Now, a Liberian refugee father claims that his pleas to a teacher and principal about the regular beatings of his 6-year-old son brought no relief, and that a phone call and later letter to the district superintendent also got no
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer explains the story:

At first, Gbahtuo Comgbaye, a West African immigrant, was more puzzled than worried when his 6-year-old son started coming home from school with bruises on his chest and neck.

His concern turned to alarm on a mid-September morning as he helped his child, Menduawor, get dressed for the day. The boy tearfully asked, “If my friends beat me up, and hurt me, and wanted to kill me, would you do something about it?”

The story that emerged: Menduawor, a slight, soft-spoken boy, was being routinely beaten by three bigger first-grade classmates at Patterson School in Southwest Philadelphia. They told him, “We don’t like your name.”…

…Comgbaye described his growing horror as his son came home from school bruised and shaken day after day. He said that his pleas to the teacher and principal brought no relief and that a phone call and subsequent letter to the district superintendent got no response.

At the end of September, the boy was beaten so severely that his mother took him to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Hospital records show Menduawor was treated for chest and abdominal injuries, which physician Sarah Wood wrote were caused by blows from a person or object...Read more here

Posted in abuse, children, dangerous neighborhoods, Liberian, Philadelphia, safety, school for refugee children, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »