An estimated 3 million Syrians have fled that country’s civil war. A small portion of them—perhaps 150,000—have found their way to Europe. In a series of reports for NPR, Pulitzer Center grantees Joanna Kakissis and Holly Pickett have been documenting the struggle of these refugees to carve out a safe haven in an environment that is not always welcoming.

In her most recent feature for NPR’s Weekend Edition, Joanna tells the story of three middle-aged siblings who, with the help of smugglers and fake papers, have managed to reunite in Germany.

“When we left after our home was first bombed, we thought maybe we can travel for a couple of years and then return when things calm down. We really thought we could build our home again in Syria,” one of the brothers tells Joanna. But those hopes have been dashed. The man’s daughter, aged 4, shows off to Joanna how she can count in German. She’s fast forgetting how to do the same in Arabic and her only memory of Damascus is the sound of gunfire.  


Resettlement in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, was a controversial organized approach to centralize the population into growth areas. Three attempts of resettlement were initiated by the Government between 1954 and 1975 which resulted in the abandonment of 300 communities and nearly 30,000 people moved.

Small amounts of money was provided to encourage people to leave their tiny, remote settlements considered non-viable by the government.

A not uncommon scene then in areas around this province was to see houses lifted from their foundations and moved across the sea to their new locations in the larger communities.

Read more here and here

Images from Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, and Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board fonds

Second Day

The second day of my internship was one of the most interesting and just AMAZING days of my life. I got to work at 9 am and Nancy (Assistant Executive Director, Education & Training) asked me if I wanted to go to the event in Newark, New Jersey. She had mentioned it to me on my first day but it had slipped my mind. Nancy, Joyce, Musa, Philip, and I had no idea what we really going to or what we would be doing there. Nancy had met a representative from this organization, O'ia-da, at a convention for East Orange, NJ non-profit organizations (which is kind of funny because they’re actually based in Newark, NJ).

We ended up sitting at this long, beautifully set table in front of this VERY large screen and we skyped with people from the cultural center in Ghana, Africa! They performed dances and songs for us as well as two presentations; one about Ghana and one about Darfur. The people from Ghana wanted to show Musa and Philip that they should be proud of their heritage and history. During the skype session, Musa and Philip talked about their almost 8-year-long journey from their village in Sudan to America. In between the two presentations from the people in Ghana, the people at O'ia-da gave us salad and it was really awkward because the people in Ghana were watching us eat. So that part of the experience was uncomfortable, to say the least.

At the end of the video session, they asked each of us to give some closing remarks. When it was my turn, I told them something along the lines of “thank you for teaching me all about Ghana and for opening my eyes to a whole new side of Africa.

On the way back to JVS, I started talking with Musa and Philip and I think that’s when I really started to feel comfortable with them. Both of them are so polite and really a joy to spend time with. They are so dedicated and focused when it comes to their studies and I really respect them for that.

After our excursion, at 1:00 pm I went and helped out in Syydah’s ESL class. Overall, this was one of the most fantastic, incredible, and unforgettable days of this internship, if not my life. I will never forget it; it had profoundly affected me forever.

The world took little notice when, in the early 1990s, the peaceful Kingdom of Bhutan expelled some 100,000 ethnic Nepalis known as Lhotsampas, or “people from the south.” The Lhotsampas languished in refugee camps in Nepal until 2008 when the UN set the wheels in motion for one of the most ambitious refugee resettlement programs ever undertaken.

The U.S. has agreed to accept the largest number—about 75,000—and many of the new arrivals have ended up in the Pittsburgh area. Pulitzer Center grantees Julia Rendleman and Moriah Balingit, both staffers on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, tell the remarkable story of a journey that stretches from the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Julia, a photojournalist and former Pulitzer Center student fellow, captures revealing moments in the lives of these refugees while Moriah tells the stories of those left behind in the squalid camps and of the others trying to find their way in America. 

Kyodo News Recommendations for Resettlement Programme

Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) has summarised the recommendations made by Kyodo News on 3rd October as follows (follow the link for JAR’s original summary with more details in Japanese):

  1. Collaboration between public and private sectors - Local authorities should get more involved with the process of resettlement particularly after the 6-month training programme. What seems like the monopolization of the training programme by Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) needs to be questioned.
  2. Improving Japanese language ability - The ability to speak sufficient level of Japanese is indispensable for the refugees to become self-reliant. This is clear from our experience with Indo-Chinese refugees.
  3. Need to resettle refugees who are more vulnerable - Currently, only young families with children are accepted as they are considered to have better chances of integration. However, the demographic criterion should be extended to a wider range, including orphans, single mothers, and elderly and disabled persons.
CC & CW Interviews

A little more about the logistics of my job for those who might be interested (beware of the multitude of acronyms in this post)….

Teams of caseworkers (CW) and casework assistants (CA) are deployed on circuit rides to conduct interviews with refugees for U.S. resettlement. We compile and prepare information for their casefiles that will be reviewed by a US immigration officer, who will make the decision about their case (approving it or denying it). There are two interviews that are conducted on a circuit ride, a case composition (CC) interview and a casework (CW) interview.

Usually, a Kenyan CA conducts the CC interview, but sometimes, CWs also do this interview. The purpose of the CC interview is to verify the information about the refugees given to us by UNHCR. We verify biographical info, compose family trees, and gather additional info (residency history, employment history, languages spoken, etc.) to enter into the WRAPS database. This interview gathers basic information on the refugee applicant, but it can also be confusing to correctly confirm details (like dates, name spelling, name order, family relationships, etc). In many of the cultures that we interview, their worlds don’t revolve around a calendar, they don’t know their exact age, their name order isn’t a set thing, and everyone is a “brother” regardless of their biological relationship. Throw in language barriers and having to conduct interviews through a translator and there is ample room for confusion.

Yet, the CC interview is pretty straightforward and often has a bit of a business feel to it. Each CA is scheduled to do three CC interviews per day (plus do quality assurance (QA) reviews of 3 files and/or namecheck files to make sure the correct security runs are scheduled for each file). Three interviews doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you have applicant families of 10 or 12 people on one case, having to verify all their information can take awhile. Then, you have to prepare forms for each person, which also takes longer with bigger cases. A complex family tree can also slow down a case, particularly polygamous marriages or many divorces. The ease to prepare each case varies greatly and it’s often difficult to tell which case will be challenging and which will be a breeze because there are so many variables that can complicate a case.

The CW interview is split into two parts, confirming the info taken at the CC interview and the preparing a case history (CH) report about what happened to the refugee applicant in their country of origin, noting their flight path, detailing important events in the country of asylum and discovering why their lives would be in danger if they returned home. As such, the CW interview can often be traumatic, detailing abuses, gathering details about deceased family members, and recalling difficult memories. To prepare the CH report, it’s also important to understand a historical and cultural background to their personal story. The expectation is that each American CW does 4 CW interviews per day, plus 4 file reviews and namechecks. Depending on the population, case size and difficulty of each case, completing four interviews can take awhile, but after three months on the job, I am starting to feel comfortable with the workload (or at least that it’s doable).  Then, when all the interviews are finished, quality assurance checked, file reviewed and namechecks scheduled, the applicant is scheduled for their interview with USCIS (immigration), which takes place at least 45 days later.  Ta da!  And that’s what I do.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed the job and work. I am glad to have personal interactions with refugees from many different cultures and backgrounds, understand more about the history of why they left, learn about their current needs and struggles, find out more about the US resettlement program from a different perspective, and internalize more about the different agencies that work with refugees. I’m also getting to travel to a variety of different places and work with different populations. I’ve gotten to visit a refugee camp and stay/work on  UN compounds. There are opportunities to do a three month secondment with UNHCR (hopefully in Rwanda, since my hubby just moved there) and/or after nine months, move into a field team leader position. Three months in and things are looking well!


Donald Trump’s convention speech, fact-checked

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Outsourcing refugees: 'How will I survive' in Cambodia?
Why Australia's controversial refugee resettlement deal with one of the world's poorest countries is 'a failure'.

For Mohammed Roshid, Australia was the land of his dreams. Having fled his village in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state, Roshid made his way to Indonesia and boarded a rickety boat, setting sail towards the country where he hoped he would find a better future.

But Roshid never made it to mainland Australia.

Instead, he now lives in Cambodia, an impoverished nation where some locals resort to begging to survive. Roshid is one of five refugees who voluntarily came to the Southeast Asian nation under a multimillion-dollar transfer deal with Australia.

Now, only two remain.

During a year-long investigation, Al Jazeera’s 101 East discovered that the other three refugees have returned to their home countries.

Roshid also wants to leave Cambodia, because “life in Cambodia is no good.” The other remaining refugee, an Iranian man, plans to return to his homeland, one of his relatives told Al Jazeera.

The Cambodian government admits the resettlement programme has been a failure.

“If you’re talking about the programme to help the refugees settle in Cambodia because of the money, it is a failure,” says Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman.

Australia’s ‘Cambodia solution’

Known for its tough border policy, Australia sends all asylum seekers who arrive at Australian shores to detention facilities on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

With refugees unable to remain there indefinitely, the Australian government struck a deal with Cambodia, which would accept any of the refugees who voluntarily chose to resettle there.

In exchange for accepting the refugees, Cambodia received $30m in aid money plus $12m to cover resettlement costs for an unspecified number of refugees.

Human rights organisations and activists have slammed the deal, with Amnesty International calling it “a new low in Australia’s deplorable and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers”.

But in a video shown to refugees, the Australian government says that the Southeast Asian nation provides “a wealth of opportunity for new settlers”.

“It is a fast-paced and vibrant country with a stable economy and varied employment opportunities,” Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton states in the video.

But Mouen Tola, a Cambodian activist and labour unionist, says that the Australian government did not paint an accurate picture of the reality of life in Cambodia.

“Millions of Cambodian people are still suffering from the system at the moment, so how come you lie to the people about employment opportunities, good opportunities and so on?”

Tola believes the aid money Australia is giving to Cambodia will not help Cambodians, a country ranked in the top 20 of the world’s most corrupt nations.

“Cambodia receives millions of dollars from the development partner but we don’t see where that money has been spent accountably or transparently. So personally I feel Australia is bribing Cambodia to accept those people,” says Tola.

'No help for refugees’

Roshid says he is unable to work because he doesn’t speak the local language, Khmer, and suffers from anxiety, depression and other health problems he developed while on Nauru.

While he could attend language classes provided by the International Organisation for Migration, the agency tasked with supporting the refugees in Cambodia, Roshid’s poor health makes it difficult for him to study.

Under the Australian deal, he receives $8,000 in cash staggered over a year. Then there’s an extra $9,000 in support for accommodation, set-up costs for a business and other expenses.

The agreement he signed states that he must return these funds if he tries to go to Australia again illegally.

Joe Lowry, from the International Organisation for Migration, says the Cambodian government had given assurances that all refugees in the country would be entitled to the same benefits as those from Nauru. But other refugees say they have not received any support.

Mohammed Yusuf, a Rohingya refugee who came to Cambodia eight years ago by his own means, says he had not seen any improvements for refugees in the year since the deal took effect.

He is unable to get a work permit or drivers’ licence. He sells roti at a street stall to feed his family of four. Yusuf approached the IOM and the UNHCR in January to ask for support, but was told he wasn’t entitled to any.

Yusuf’s experience has Mohammed Roshid deeply concerned about how he will survive once he stops receiving funding at the end of the year.

“I am worried about the future, in case I have to live in Cambodia permanently, as I cannot go anywhere…. I am worried about how to live here. If I will have to live here the way other refugees live here, how will I survive? There is no help for refugees in this country like other places. They just accept refugees without support,” says Roshid.

Despite the assurances Cambodia gave the IOM, the government says it’s limited in how much it can help refugees.

“We don’t have social services like ultra-modern governments. We don’t have that much money to help them,” explains Siphan, the Cambodian government spokesman.

The Australian government did not reply to Al Jazeera’s repeated requests for comment on the Cambodia programme. But Peter Dutton, Australia’s immigration minister, has told a local television station that the government’s border protection policy is working.

“I think the policy has been a success,” he reportedly said. “We have been able to close 13 of 17 detention centres. At the same time, we have been able to increase the number of refugees we take through the United Nations process. So restoring order to our borders and making sure we have strong border security, as we are seeing in Europe, is as important today as it ever has been.”

Roshid says he voluntarily chose to come to Cambodia, but that he made that decision because he was ill and wasn’t receiving adequate medical care at the detention centre in Nauru. After two years in the detention centre, he was desperate to get out.

But it wasn’t until after he arrived in Cambodia last November and received medical treatment that the impact of his decision sunk in.

“I had never been to Cambodia before. I didn’t know anything about Cambodia,” he said. “I was thinking to myself, 'Where am I now, why did I come here?’”

More than 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers remain on Nauru and Papua New Guinea with no viable future there, and the Australian government is trying to find other countries like Cambodia who will accept them. Third country resettlement may be a solution for Australia, but refugees such as Roshid, hoping for a better life in Australia, remain as far away as ever from finding a new home.

From the 101 East documentary Cambodia: My New Home Watch the full film here

Follow Yaara Bou Melhem on Twitter: @yaaraboutv

Follow Liz Gooch on Twitter: @liz_gooch

Source: Al Jazeera

Kyodo News Recommendations for Resettlement Programme

Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) has summarised the recommendations made by Kyodo News on 3rd October as follows (follow the link for JAR’s original summary with more details in Japanese):

  1. Collaboration between public and private sectors - Local authorities should get more involved with the process of resettlement particularly after the 6-month training programme. What seems like the monopolization of the training programme by Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) needs to be questioned.
  2. Improving Japanese language ability - The ability to speak sufficient level of Japanese is indispensable for the refugees to become self-reliant. This is clear from our experience with Indo-Chinese refugees.
  3. Need to resettle refugees who are more vulnerable - Currently, only young families with children are accepted as they are considered to have better chances of integration. However, the demographic criterion should be extended to a wider range, including orphans, single mothers, and elderly and disabled persons.
Nepali women feel discriminated against by third country resettlement program

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Nepali women whose husbands are Bhutanese refugees feel discriminated against by the UN’s third country resettlement program.  Spouses are not considered refugees.  Many times, refugees married to Nepali nationals apply for third country resettlement as singles, leaving behind their spouse and children.  

In other Bhutanese refugee news…

Although camp consolidation is progressing, the fate of the remaining 63,093 refugees is uncertain. 

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Photo: Marcus Benigno/IRIN

Cases of fraud, non-registration, and marriages between refugees and local Nepalis have delayed applications for third-country resettlement. (The Damak authorities recently arrested a Nepali woman who allegedly promised clients passage to Western countries by registering them as Bhutanese refugees.) 

While many refugee families wait to resettle, 15,000 have yet to express any interest in third-country resettlement. Refugees like Ghanashyam Lamgade are still optimistic of returning to Bhutan. 

Lamgade has served the Beldangi community as a tailor for the past 10 years and has no intention of applying for third-country resettlement. 

“I am Bhutanese. I belong to Bhutan. Until Bhutan makes the decision on repatriation, I will wait. And if ever Bhutan decides not to take us back then only at that time may I consider other options,” Lamgade said. He said members of his community were still in Bhutan and that resettling elsewhere would be a “great defeat”. 

UNHCR hopes that as the number of refugees falls, Bhutan may be inclined to allow the remaining refugees to return. 

Via IRIN News.