Friday, September 21, 2007

Bhutanese, Iraqis coming to Concord

Source: Concord Monitor

Monitor staff

Two new groups of refugees, Bhutanese now living in Nepal and Iraqis living mostly in Syria and Jordan, are expected to arrive in Concord over the next year. It's not clear exactly how many will come. So far, only one Iraqi family of four is on its way, but the resettlement agency Lutheran Social Services often receives little notice of who is coming when.

The agency has told national groups that allocate refugees for resettlement in each state that it can manage about 125 refugees in the coming fiscal year, which starts in October. Most would come to Concord, and some to Laconia.

Program Manager Amy Marchildon said the agency has asked for Bhutanese and Iraqis because they could do well here. She said there are about 200 Nepalese immigrants in Concord who could relate to the Bhutanese culturally, and about 39 Iraqi Kurds were settled successfully in Concord between 1999 and 2001. The caseload also would include a diverse group of refugees from African nations.

Their refugees are people who have been persecuted for their race, ethnicity, religion, politics or social standing and who are selected for entrance to the United States. In the past nine years, Lutheran has resettled more than 470 refugees in Concord. The agency provides assistance in the first few months after arrival.

While Lutheran sets a target capacity each year, the number of refugees coming to New Hampshire doesn't always reach that level. This fiscal year, which ends at the end of September, the agency was expecting up to 130 refugees, including as many as 80 Burundians coming from camps in Tanzania. ---ADVERTISEMENT---

As of the end of August, 103 had arrived, including 85 who were resettled in Concord and 33 Burundians settled between Concord and Laconia.

All refugees must go through a background and health check before being considered for resettlement and are excluded if the United Nations determines they committed war crimes or acts against humanity, according to a pamphlet by the Church World Service, a national resettlement agency. Background checks include a screening by the State Department, fingerprinting, an interview by the Department of Homeland Security and review by the FBI and CIA.

"I think there might be a level of fear when we say 'Iraqi refugees' just in terms of security," Marchildon said. "It's important for people to understand that the refugees very involvement with the United States is the reason why they are being persecuted and targeted at home and is why they had to flee Iraq or are displaced in the country. This is historically consistent with U.S. humanitarian and foreign policy commitments."

As of the end of 2006, the population of Iraqi refugees worldwide quintupled and was second in size only to Afghans, according to a United Nations report.

Today, about 2 million Iraqi people have fled to Jordan and Syria, and an equal number are displaced within Iraq. The number of total displaced is expected to grow by another 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to Church World Service. The refugee crisis is the largest since Palestinians fled the creation of Israel in 1948. At an April conference, the United States pledged to take in up to 25,000 Iraqi refugees. This year, about 7,000 have come.

Marchildon described them as "urban refugees" who aren't concentrated in camps but who are living underground lives, destitute because they can't work without papers.

"The boys in the family . . . work in factories, child labor," Marchildon said. "The girls are being prostituted. These are extreme survival mechanisms. These are families that would never dream of a life like that."

Unlike the Burundians and other African groups who have spent decades in refugee camps, the conflict that has made Iraqis into refugees is not far from the present.

"Trauma is more fresh for them," Marchildon said.

But they have had access to much more education than those who grew up in camps and they are more accustomed to Western ways. Marchildon said some aspects of integration, including finding work, could be easier.

The Bhutanese, on the other hand, face challenges largely caused by their protracted stay in refugee camps.

The refugees fled Bhutan, a Himalayan country smaller than the Dominican Republic, in the early 1990s. In the 1980s, the Bhutan government started a campaign to identify people who were "genuine Bhutanese" and forced migration of those who didn't fit that categorization, according to a slide show created by the office of the United Nation High Commission for Refugees. Efforts in recent years to repatriate those who have lived in Nepal for as many as 16 years have been unsuccessful.

There are more than 108,000 Bhutanese refugees in seven refugee camps in Nepal. Most are Hindu and speak Nepali. About 35 percent also speak English. Children in the camps are educated to about grade 10, and a limited number have gone on to college in India. About 25 percent have not been educated, according to the UNHCR. Job training has been limited. A small political faction in the camps opposes resettlement and has pushed to return to the Bhutan, causing tension in the camps when threats have been made against those in favor of resettlement.

The UNHCR slide show says at least 20,000 refugees are expected to request resettlement, but the number could be "much higher."

1 comment:

Srijana said...

I am very positive about the third country resettlement.
Hope this gets executed soon.
I would love to join people in US and start a new life.
I am coming there.