Unaccompanied Minors Greatly Impacted by Suspension of the U.S. Resettlement Program

Child protection is extremely important to the work and mission of RefugePoint. We currently have seven Child Protection Experts located in six countries across Africa. Children face extreme risks as refugees and are often subject to exploitation and dangerous living conditions. Additionally, unaccompanied and orphaned minors often have little or no access to education or other basic services. We recently had the opportunity to ask a RefugePoint Child Protection Expert working in Cairo, Egypt, about the impacts that the U.S. resettlement ban is having on her day-to-day work. Here, in her own words, RefugePoint’s Child Protection Expert in Cairo, Egypt, describes the impact that she is witnessing:

“I can say that the U.S. resettlement ban has and will continue to greatly affect the unaccompanied minors in Egypt. With about 1,900 unaccompanied minors, and 2,900 unaccompanied or separated children (UASC) in total, there are presently no resettlement countries accepting unaccompanied minors from Egypt (except on exceptional bases).

The U.S. was and always has been a willing recipient of unaccompanied minors, so this ban nearly completely eliminates any prospects for resettlement, which is the only durable solution for these children. I think that the impact of all of this will be something that we see the effects of for months, and possibly years to come. We will have to begin focusing more on the child protection system, and the available services here in Egypt. We also fear that the lack of resettlement options for these unaccompanied minors will lead to a drastic increase in those attempting to irregularly migrate by sea from Egypt.

As of April 2017, there were 34 unaccompanied or separated children (UASC) who were “stuck” in the resettlement process. I can confidently say that that number […]

By |September 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Unaccompanied Minors Greatly Impacted by Suspension of the U.S. Resettlement Program

One of the Last Unaccompanied Minors to Arrive in the U.S. Before the Travel Ban

Musa*, age 11, was among the last unaccompanied minors to arrive in the U.S. before the suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, and was certainly one of the last to arrive from such a life-threatening situation.

At age 8, Musa was chased from his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and was separated from his parents as he escaped. Musa sought safety in Nairobi, Kenya, where he faced a life-threatening illness without access to the proper treatment. Many refugees who escape from the bullets and rubble of warfare are either injured or sick, and sometimes, appropriate medical attention is not available in the countries to which they flee.

Some, like Musa, have been separated from their parents. Thankfully, two very kind-hearted Congolese refugees cared for Musa during his time in Nairobi. Through participation in our business development training, and a small RefugePoint business grant, Musa’s caretakers were able to grow a successful business that enabled them to provide for Musa’s needs. RefugePoint also provided transportation to and from the local hospital so that the caretakers could visit Musa during his treatments. RefugePoint was actively involved in Musa’s resettlement case and in determining what was needed to ensure the highest level of care for Musa.

The U.S. Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program (URM), which has assisted over 13,000 minors since it was established in 1980, ensures that eligible unaccompanied minors, like Musa, are placed within foster families in the U.S.

RefugePoint prioritizes refugee children in all of our programs, and with child protection officers placed across Africa, we have expertise in helping unaccompanied minors and orphans like Musa.

We are thrilled that Musa will now be able to access the treatment he needs, will be able to attend school, […]

By |August 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on One of the Last Unaccompanied Minors to Arrive in the U.S. Before the Travel Ban

All In a Day’s (Social) Work

Integral to RefugePoint’s holistic service model in our Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) is our Social Work team, comprised of four Social Workers, a Program Associate, an Education Officer, a Child Protection Officer, and a Program Manager. Often, a Social Worker is one of the very first staff members that a new client will interact with. Many of these new clients have just arrived to Nairobi and don’t know where to turn for assistance.

Through food, rent, and education support, our Social Work team empowers clients to transition out of highly vulnerable circumstances like unsafe housing, survival sex, and just one meal a day, to self-sufficiency, and ultimately, self-reliance. Using a case management approach, clients are assigned an individual social worker that oversees their entire experience at RefugePoint, from intake to graduation. Working closely with our Medical team, Counselors, and Livelihoods Program, Social Workers help guide clients through the graduation model, assessing their unique and individual needs every step along the way. Whether they need assistance enrolling their children in school, a translator to access medical services, or group therapy to help develop healthy coping mechanisms, RefugePoint clients build a case plan with a Social Worker to set goals, measure progress, and create opportunities for self-reliance.

We want to share with you what a typical day in the field looks like for RefugePoint Social Workers in Nairobi, and so we recently spent the day with Caroline, a RefugePoint Social Worker who shares a first-hand account of a typical day in the field interacting with clients.

Name: Caroline
Title: Social Worker
Date: July 2017
Assignment: Food Distribution and Primary Household Bio-Data Collection
Neighborhood: Eastleigh

Today I am going to Eastleigh, a neighborhood in Nairobi, to collect information from a new client who is an […]

By |July 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on All In a Day’s (Social) Work

RefugePoint’s Statement regarding the Administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Executive Order 13780

There are more refugees in more life threatening situations than ever before. Conflict and persecution have forced more than 65 million people from their homes, including 22.5 million refugees who have crossed an international border.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 26th to uphold parts of President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, and suspends travel for refugees who “lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The Trump Administration’s interpretation of “bona fide relationship” is very narrow, and does not include resettlement agencies, and organizations like RefugePoint. It also does not count grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws, or cousins, as “bona fide relationships”.

The Administration has halted refugee resettlement to the U.S., and is limiting the entry of thousands of refugees who do not have an immediate “bona fide” family member who is already in the U.S.

This interpretation is clearly not in keeping with the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the executive order, which only stipulates that in order to be resettled, a refugee needs to have a relationship with a U.S.-based entity (which we believe should include resettlement agencies and organizations such as RefugePoint that have long-term established relationships with refugees).

The administration knows that many Americans and U.S. residents are anxiously awaiting the resettlement of their refugee aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and other family members. Banning these important and bona fide family members, or mischaracterizing them as not ‘close,’ overlooks and ignores the exceptions outlined by the Supreme Court. For the thousands of orphans and other vulnerable family members stranded in dangerous situations abroad, this guidance may isolate them from the only family they have left.

The administration’s unduly narrow definition of bona fide family is wrong […]

By |July 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint’s Statement regarding the Administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Executive Order 13780

RefugePoint Statement on Supreme Court Announcement

The June 26th Supreme Court decision upholds parts of President Trump’s Executive Order and suspends travel for refugees who “lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” This is a potentially devastating blow to refugees and goes against our American values of welcome.

RefugePoint was founded to help refugees in life-threatening situations resettle to the U.S. and other countries around the world where they can rebuild their lives in safety. These are orphans, children, mothers, those with life-threatening injuries, members of the LGBTIQ community, women at risk, and others.

The intensive selection process of the U.S. resettlement program includes vetting by multiple national security agencies that can often take more than two years. A wide range of Republican and Democratic national security experts have stated that resettlement is in the national security interest. Refugees are not a risk to our country, but rather benefit America over the long term with their entrepreneurialism, economic contributions, and drive to succeed. Due to the Supreme Court ruling many may now be stuck in continued limbo and desperation.

RefugePoint is committed to expanding refugee resettlement for the world’s most at-risk refugees. The U.S. has always been a lifeline and global leader for refugees in need of resettlement. The administration should immediately begin reviewing the vetting process and restart the resettlement program in full so that those around the world in desperation and danger can continue to find safety in America.

By |June 27th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint Statement on Supreme Court Announcement

World Refugee Day Celebrations 2017

Urban Refugee Protection Network (URPN) Partners, convened by UNHCR, planned a week-long event leading up to June 20, to mark this year’s World Refugee Day. Activities included exhibitions by refugees, entertainment sets, fashion shows and the launch of an online marketplace called Pamoja Collectives. The event was held in the heart of Nairobi at the Alliance Francaise. Partners included: The Danish Refugee Council, HIAS, Kituo Cha Sheria, IOM, Jesuit Rescue Services (JRS), the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Heshima Kenya, IRC.

Today, June 20, Many of our colleagues in Nairobi had the opportunity to participate in the #WorldRefugeeDay celebrations that took place at the University of Nairobi, in Kenya. The celebration included performances by Sudanese, Ethiopian, Burundian and Ugandan refugee performers. The Guest of Honor was The Minister for Internal Security and Coordination of National Government, Joseph Ole Nkaissery. Nkaissery said that this year’s theme: ‘We stand together with Refugees’, resonated with Kenya’s quest to offer a safe landing to populations displaced by conflicts and natural disasters in the East and Horn of African region. Nkaissery said: “Kenya will continue offering protection to refugees and will invest in livelihood projects that benefit them directly. We will also engage our partners to address conflicts that trigger forced migration.” Many other dignitaries and ambassadors joined in the celebrations as well.

There was also an exhibition filled with a wide selection of products made by refugees – supported by many organizations. There were bags, carvings, paintings, jewelry, clothes, fabrics, oils, spices, postcards, place-mats, and shoes.

 

By |June 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on World Refugee Day Celebrations 2017

Part Five: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order

 

“Tesfaye* and his family, including his wife and six children, are refugees in Kenya. Tesfaye has been a refugee for 20 years, having escaped persecution in his home country of Ethiopia. In December 2016, the family was elated to be informed that their resettlement case processing was finally coming to an end and that they would be resettled to the U.S. in a period of less than 2 months.

After 20 years of struggle, and surviving torture that left him with permanent physical injuries, Tesfaye could finally see the hope of a new beginning for his family – an opportunity to live in safety and dignity.

Tesfaye’s journey as a refugee has been extremely difficult. He originally fled to Kenya in 1997, began his family, and lived in Kenya until 2010, when he was deported back to Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, Tesfaye was detained for nearly one year in a prison where he was tortured. Relatives contributed money for Tesfaye’s release from prison and for the treatment of his torture wounds. In 2011 Tesfaye returned to Kenya, and to his wife and children, but surviving has not been easy. Despite working hard, and running a small food stand with the help of a business grant, the family continues to live in very poor living conditions.

Talking with Tesfaye on January 30, he was vaguely aware of a new presidency in the U.S., but did not know how the new policy would affect his travel plans. Tesfaye and his family will undoubtedly need to wait longer to travel, or may lose their chance altogether to be resettled. This will certainly come as a heavy blow to a family who has already endured so much hardship.”

This story was shared with us […]

By |February 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Part Five: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order

Part Four: After a 2-year separation, 4-year-old reunites with mother

          

(Image left: 4-year old Mushkaad is finally reunited with her mother Samira in the U.S., after two years of separation. Image right: RefugePoint Kenya board member Sheikha Ali serves as a travel companion for Mushkaad during her journey from Uganda to the U.S.)

“How do you explain to the little girl that she will no longer be going to see her mother? How do you explain to the mother who anxiously has been waiting for her child that she will no longer see her 4-year old daughter?”

During the past few days we have been sharing stories of refugee families impacted by the recent executive order suspending the U.S. resettlement program, as told by RefugePoint Resettlement Experts. Many things have developed since Friday, when a federal judge from Washington state temporarily blocked enforcement of the travel ban, which allowed people who had been previously banned from travelling to board planes bound for the U.S.

Today, we share with you a special story of Mushkaad, A 4-year old Somali girl, as told to us by a RefugePoint Kenya board member, Sheikha Ali, who served as Mushkaad’s travel companion as she attempted and re-attempted her journey to reunite with her family in the U.S. after two years of separation.
Flight Cancelled

On January 27, Mushkaad, A 4-year old Somali girl wearing a beautiful white dress, and with her hair specially done up, was ready to finally board a plane and fly to Minnesota where she would reunite with her mother after two years of separation.

Sheikha Ali, a RefugePoint board member who is an employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), met the little girl in Kampala, Uganda, on the day of the flight. But the executive […]

By |February 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Part Four: After a 2-year separation, 4-year-old reunites with mother

Part Three: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order

We continue with Part Three of our blog series (go back to Part One, go to Part Two), in which RefugePoint Resettlement Experts, who work across Africa to help refugees through the process resettlement, tell stories about how the recent executive order impacts the refugees whom they work with.

Today’s story chronicles a refugee family from Somalia who fled to Kenya, as told by one of our Resettlement Experts:

“I interviewed several families whom will now be blocked from entry to the United States. I interviewed a family headed by a Somali woman in her 60’s, her son, and several nieces and nephews whom had fled with her from Somalia. 

The female head of the household, who was the main applicant had been diagnosed with multiple severe medical issues. Within the camp, this woman relied on each of her nieces and nephews to feed and bathe her, to cook and clean, to accompany/carry her to the hospital, particularly when she fell unconscious, and to collect her medications. 

However, in the camp, she did not have access to sufficient medications or treatment. On the day of our interview, she struggled to even reach the office as two of her nephews carried her. We had received medical referrals declaring that treatment was not accessible for her within Kenya as a refugee.  However, such medical referrals were out of date, making emergency submission to the United States unlikely without an updated medical examination. 

Despite consistent requests, we were unable to attain an urgent and updated medical exam through the local medical staff. As such, I was advised to send the case on an urgent needs basis, so that the woman may attain medical attention within the shortest time possible. I met with this woman again at […]

By |February 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Part Three: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order

Part Two: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order

Imagine being violently chased from your home and losing everything – your home, business, friends and family members. And then, you are unable to return home, you are a refugee for 14 years, and you go through an 8 year vetting process to be resettled to the U.S. Finally, after 8 years of waiting, you are approved for resettlement to the U.S. on a specific date in February 2017. Finally, you and your family will be safe in the U.S. and able to begin life again. And then suddenly, with the stroke of a pen on January 27, an executive order banning refugees on refugees signed, and all of that is lost…

Today, we continue Part Two of our series (go back to Part One), in which RefugePoint Resettlement Experts, who work across Africa to help refugees through the process resettlement, tell stories about how the recent executive order impacts the refugees whom they work with.

The story above is not a hypothetical situation. It is a true story. Here is more about this story, which is of a family from Darfur that fled to Chad, as told by one of our Resettlement Experts:

“Twenty refugees were expected to reach the United States in February. Out of the 20, five were women and girls, nine were children below 15. All of the children were born and raised as refugees. The parents have been living as refugees for the last 14 years since they fled from Darfur region of Sudan in 2003.

Darfur is a region where there’s an ongoing conflict and displacement of civilians due to ethnic conflict. The refugees were chased out of their homes by the Janjaweed militia who attacked the village, killed several civilians and took away […]

By |February 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Part Two: Stories of Refugees Impacted by the Executive Order