Clues to cause of tire blow-out and rollover of 15-passenger van in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 18, 2011

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia sent us a copy of the crash report for the single vehicle crash involving the 15-passenger Chevrolet 3500 van, and the report confirms their spokeswoman’s earlier statement that a tire blow-out was the apparent cause of the crash.

There were 13 refugees injured and two killed (one man was ejected out the back door of the van and decapitated ; the other man killed was thrown to the rear cargo area and entrapped). Injuries included fractured ribs, severe internal injuries, severe head injuries, a severed right hand, and the front passenger’s left arm was severed below the elbow (emergency personnel extricated him due to entrapment). The youngest passenger, a 20-year-old male Sudanese refugee, suffered a broken jaw (the driver and 12 passengers were Nepali-Bhutanese refugees, and there were two African refugee passengers). All of the 15 people were traveling to their Perdue chicken-processing factory jobs in Perry, 106 miles south of their homes in Atlanta. The report says that an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) official claimed that World Relief supplied the refugees with the jobs. There is no mention of RRISA, as in media reports.

Several witnesses in vehicles traveling in the same direction heard a loud sound before the van went out of control — one described it as a “pow” and another described it as a “pop”. The vehicle swerved off I-75, crossed the median, and hit a guard rail support on the other side — causing it to flip over front-to-back, land upside down on the guard rail, then make a full sideways roll and landing upside down.

The crash report also gives clues about the cause of the left rear tire blow-out. Both of the front tires were in very good condition (“like new”), with 3/4 inch tread depth on each tire. The two rear tires, however — both Uniroyal Laredo LT245/75R16 with load range E — were not in very good condition, with “some dry rot present”. The right rear tire had about 1/4 inch tread depth and the tread was partially torn. The left rear tire, the tire that failed before the crash, lost its tread during the crash leaving only the cords and steel belts exposed. There was also a tear on the left rear tire that went from outer sidewall to inner sidewall. So, perhaps the left rear tire blew-out due to severe wear and/or dry rot, and not due to tire over-inflation or under-inflation as I earlier surmised.

Another issue, according to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is that these 15-passenger vans, when used as directed, with up to 15 passengers, are more likely to roll over, by 9-12 percent per passenger added, due to an increase in the height of the center of gravity. In other words, the purpose of the vehicle, to transport up to 15 passengers, is also the source of these vehicles’ risk. The higher the occupancy the higher the risk. I suspect, though, that fully loaded vehicles — with  tires that are not properly maintained and replaced when necessary – are much more likely to have a tire blow-out initiating the rollover. A driver inexperienced with handling a large passenger van, especially a new driver inexperienced with driving any vehicle, would no doubt also increase the rollover risk due to inexperience with handling (although a fully loaded 15-pnassenger van that experiences a tire blow-out at high-speed would, I suspect, be extremely difficult to control even for an experienced van driver).

Another van crash involving refugees in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 11, 2011

Just five days after I posted the story on a passenger van accident in Georgia involving refugees killed and injured there was yet another passenger van crash in Georgia involving refugees — on Wed. April 6, 2011. The Bhutan News Service reports that this time a Bhutanese refugee returning from a chicken processing plant in an automobile allegedly collided with a van carrying seven passengers while attempting to overtake the van. The van was also returning Bhutanese refugees to their homes in Atlanta after working at the chicken processing factory. The drive of the car is apparently missing.

A few resettled Bhutanese were injured when an overtaking car hit and veered off a van on Tuesday morning at 4:30 am local time. Of them, one is critical.

According to the report, Rohit Dhakal, 32, was seriously injured when a car driven by another resettled fellow of Beldangi-II allegedly collided with a van carrying seven passengers while overtaking…

…“He is critically injured and being treated in the hospital now,” Hemu told Bhutan News Service…

…The driver of the van, who received minor injuries, is reported to have told Hemu that the vehicle over-turned a number of times before its [tire] got blown off… Read more here

The Bhutan News Service has another update to that article.

The former Bhutanese refugee who met with a car accident recently in Atlanta, GA has been in coma for four days.

According to Narad Sharma, a close relative who has been taking care of the victim since he met with an accident, the victim has been undergoing medical treatment at Grady Health System in South-east Atlanta.

He underwent head surgery on the same day of accident, and has been scheduled for the next one tonight”, says Sharma adding the victim may have to undergo series of surgeries…the victim is out of danger but he may have brain haemorrhage that can have long term complications…

…Rohit met with an accident last Wednesday when he was returning from his work as the van driven by Amit Thapa, a fellow worker at the Chicken factory was overtaken by another speeding car. Read more here

Oddly, AccessNorthGA has an article from April 6th which reports that the crash occurred near Gainesville in northern Georgia, but that it happened after the van’s (a minivan) driver struck a curb, lost control, and then hit a tractor-trailer. That article lists a different first name for the van driver, although the same last name, and gives the accident time as 3:30am, though the Bhutan News Service said it occurred at 4:30am.

GAINESVILLE – At least one person was injured early Wednesday when a minivan and a tractor trailer collided on the southside of Gainesville.

Gainesville Police Officer Joe Britte said the accident happened when the driver of the minivan struck a curb as he tried to turn from Athens Highway onto the southbound Interstate 985 entrance ramp.

“It struck the curb then lost control of the vehicle and struck the tractor trailer,” he said.

“It struck the curb then lost control of the vehicle and struck the tractor trailer,” he said.

Britte said the driver of the minivan, 22-year-old Mahendra Thapa, was injured in the incident. He
said the driver of the tractor trailer, Grady Tritt, was not.

Britte said the accident, which occurred around 3:30a.m., is still under investigation.

Nepali-Bhutanese refugee killed at abortion clinic in Philadelphia

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 1, 2011

 Karnamaya Mongar with her husband, Ash — credit-AP

A reader wrote that I was an “idiot” for not posting about the barbaric conditions at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, where a Nepali-Bhutanese refugee died in 2009. The clinic’s Dr. Kermit Gosnell has also been charged with murdering seven infants with scissors. Initially I didn’t think this was directly related to refugee resettlement, but the latest article points out the lack of action by government oversight agencies, which is also one of the main problems we have in the refugee resettlement program.

An article in the New York Times details the failure of government officials to take any action after two deaths and more than a dozen malpractice cases at the abortion clinic. The state Health Department ignored the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee, with the department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defending the agency’s actions by stating bluntly, “People die.”…

PHILADELPHIA — For years, state health officials missed some unsettling patterns at the three-story brick abortion clinic on Lancaster Avenue.

It was always open late, way past the time the pizza place next door closed at midnight. The women who emerged from it — often poor blacks and Hispanics — appeared dazed and in pain, and sometimes left in ambulances. The doctor who ran the clinic, Kermit Gosnell, had been sued at least 15 times for malpractice. Two women died while under his care.

But the dangerous practices went unnoticed, except by the women who experienced them. They were discovered entirely by accident, during a prescription drug raid by federal agents last February.

The clinic — now closed, with dead plants in its windows and old mail on its front desk — stands as a grim reminder of how degrading it was for the women who went there and how long state officials ignored their complaints.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia district attorney, Seth Williams, indicted Dr. Gosnell on eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven infants and a Bhutanese refugee who died after a late-term abortion in 2009.

A grand jury report issued on the same day offered its own theory on why so little happened for so long.

We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color,” the report said, “and because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”

Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett, said Friday that the governor “was appalled at the inaction on the part of the Health Department and the Department of State,” the two agencies that were responsible for overseeing the clinic...

…Complaints against Dr. Gosnell date back to 1983, according to the grand jury report, but none moved state regulators to action. Some malpractice suits produced settlements that were paid by Dr. Gosnell’s insurance company, including nearly $1 million paid to the family of Semika Shaw, a 22-year-old mother of two who died from an infection in 2002 after an abortion at the clinic.

The report details a sweeping pattern of negligence, with no inspector stepping foot inside the clinic for more than 16 years. Even the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who died after a procedure in 2009, was ignored.

Janice Staloski, a Health Department official, declined to investigate the death, saying the department had no authority to do so, the report said. The department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defended the agency’s actions to the grand jury, stating bluntly, “People die.”… Read more here

Unfortunately, that sounds like the same type of attitude we see from government refugee resettlement oversight agencies all the time.

**UPDATE** Feb. 15, 2011, Pa. governor fires workers after abortion scandal

“Translation of faith”: converting Bhutanese refugees via English Bible lessons

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2011

This story just amazes me – an evangelical church in Abilene, Texas is converting Bhutanese refugees to Christianity by teaching them English using the Bible. Refugees who have been Hindu or Buddhist all their lives suddenly abandoning their faiths and converting to Christianity after a few of these “English lessons”. Of course, proselytization is supposedly forbidden in the refugee program, so why does the International Rescue Committee allow this? The Abilene Reporter News gives more details:

For more than 30 years, Pat Cranfill has lived, worked and worshipped in Abilene.

She is known by people closest to her as someone who loves to help and serve, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that she had an opportunity to put that servant attitude to work on an international mission field right here in Abilene.

Cranfill, a member of the congregation at Southern Hills Church of Christ, answered the call to her new “mission” field by initially helping some young ladies — refugees from Bhutan — find their way around Abilene.

That offer of help has grown into her participation in a program at Southern Hills that teaches English to refugees through Bible stories…

…According to Phil Ware, Minister of The Word at Southern Hills, when the International Rescue Committee began bringing refugees here a few years ago, it was clear that his church could step up and model Jesus to them…

…Using tools and programs like Let’s Start Talking, FriendSpeak, and the World English Institute, more than 50 Southern Hills members are engaged in teaching English to these new Abilenians.

“All the English is taught by reading passages of Scripture from the easy-to-read version of the Bible, which has been used internationally,” said Ware. “The lessons are simple, less colloquial, and designed best for someone with a very limited English vocabulary.”…

…”It is that the Bible is the message, and you are the example. You are not there as a teacher; you are there as a friend”

DeLynda Gray, LST/FriendSpeak coordinator for Southern Hills, said she has seen some very rewarding things come out of using the Bible to help the refugees learn English.

“When you have a different world view than we do the journey through the Bible’s parables and lessons can seem figurative,” she said. “What continues to amaze me is their devotion and excitement to learn. They are so thirsty for the Bible; they really want to go more deeply.”

Gray said several of the refugees have made professions of faith and been baptized into the Christian faith.

“That is pretty amazing in a culture that claims thousands of gods,” she said. “For them to claim the one, true God, and follow Jesus is wonderful.”

Such was the case for 31-year-old Moti Lamagdey and his 27-year-old wife, Tila, both Bhutanese refugees.

“I made a decision to follow the Christian faith and was baptized with Tila on December 12, 2010,” said Lamagedy. “I’m very proud of the decision, and God has blessed us both. I learned so much from the Bible classes at Southern Hills, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to be a follower of Jesus.”

Cranfill said for many of the refugees, once they’re shown enough concrete facts revealed in the Bible, it doesn’t take them very long to get it.

“When they get it, you can see a light go on in their eyes it’s really amazing,” she added.

Gray added that she has seen these English classes as a powerful vehicle for Southern Hills members — who have been tentative about evangelism — to feel confident about evangelism.

“We are God’s ‘community front porch’ this is where the real worship is done,” said Ware. “Lives are changed person to person the same way Jesus did it. Christian life is about touching people walking alongside each other, helping each other become who we say we worship.”

“It takes very little to share the Gospel with them,” Cranfill said. “If more people were willing, we would have Bible studies going day and night wouldn’t that be great to know we were using God’s mission field for that purpose?” Read more here

A Bronx Tale

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 1, 2011

Some of the last of the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees resettled to the Bronx by the IRC are now out-migrating. An article in the New York Times in September 2009 reported that the IRC had placed the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in a Bronx apartment building with a weed-choked front courtyard and grimy staircases (here). The refugees’ apartments were only furnished with a couple of bureaus and several beds that doubled as couches, and little else The IRC declined an interview for the documentary The Refugee Syndrome about these refugees. The current New York Times article tells more.

For two years, a five-story walk-up apartment building in the Bronx has served as a small beachhead for a new immigrant community: refugee families from the South Asian nation of Bhutan. From this new home on University Avenue, where they were placed by a resettlement agency, the families have made their first, tentative steps in an unfamiliar culture and language.

But now they are on the move again. In the year since The New York Times profiled the building and the eight Bhutanese families who were living there, four of the families have left for other states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont and North Carolina — and most members of a fifth have moved to Albany…

…Yet the experiences of the families on University Avenue also say something about New York. Often portrayed as an ideal spot for new immigrants, with its array of public services and advocacy groups and its fertile mix of ethnicities, the city may not necessarily have all that a newcomer needs to build a future. Indeed, a trove of census data released in December shows how immigrants to America in the last decade have spread out from the big cities where they have traditionally clustered, or bypassed them altogether.

This is especially true for new immigrant populations like the Bhutanese, who, numbering more than 250 since 2008, have arrived in New York in small numbers and lack established social networks to turn to for support. Some are improvising, creating those communities elsewhere — in smaller, less expensive cities where relatives have already been resettled.

Those who have left the Bronx building said they were driven out of the city mainly by the high cost of living, particularly rent.

During his year in New York City, in the throes of the economic downturn, Mr. Mishra and his two sisters struggled to find jobs and were barely able to cover basic expenses, including the $975 monthly rent for their one-bedroom apartment. While new refugees have immediate access to financial support and other services from government and private sources, that aid often begins to dissipate after several months…

…Officials at the International Rescue Committee, the resettlement program based in New York that brought the Bhutanese to University Avenue, acknowledged the difficulties that the city posed for many refugees. While New York offers extraordinary advantages, they said, including an extensive public transportation system and a network of organizations accustomed to working with immigrants, it could also be costly and, for some, emotionally overwhelming…

…Abhi Siwakoti, another Bhutanese refugee, decided to leave New York City after trying for months to cover his family’s expenses, including the $1,200 rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the University Avenue building… Read more here

The question that remains however is why the IRC placed these refugees in the Bronx to begin with. The rents were sky-high before the refugees arrived. Crime was rampant. Although the IRC refers to the area’s extensive public transportation system, refugees report never having been to Manhattan. Burmese refugee clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York reported that they had never been to the Statue of Liberty.

Bhutanese refugees in Oregon – cheated out of wages, some suicidal, yet still with hope and gratitude

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2010

The author of this Op-ed, Som N. Subedi, about Bhutanese refugees in Oregon sent us the link to the article. Read the OregonLivearticle for the full story. Below is an excerpt.

I am a refugee from Bhutan. In the early days after my arrival to Portland, I would call friends and family in the refugee camps in Nepal, telling them the United States is close to heaven and they should try to come as soon as possible.

Now, nearly two years later, I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my “heaven.” Some say they would return, if it were possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that “the
American dream” is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal…

…The Bhutanese, the newest refugee community in Oregon, began arriving in early 2008. More than 33,000 now live in the United States — including more than 400 in the Portland metro area — as part of a State Department resettlement program. Another 30,000 are expected to arrive in the U.S. over the next three years — destined to face an economic crisis that adds to the challenges of their integration…

…When the United States opened its door to refugees from Bhutan, we jumped at the opportunity. But a three-day orientation overseas did not prepare us for life in America. We were told how to use a toilet or fasten a seatbelt, but nothing about how to deal with a lack of employment opportunities. Bhutanese refugees suffer intense culture shock when they arrive in the U.S. Separation from family and from everything familiar is overwhelming, as is the trauma of war and refugee camp life…

For some, the pressure is too great. Suicide among refugees is a real and growing concern in the United States. Already, eight Bhutanese refugees have hung themselves in four states since 2009. Suicide by a refugee has an added poignancy: Refugees believe they are coming to start a new life, not to end it.

Although no suicide has occurred in Oregon, I have met several Bhutanese refugees here who have contemplated suicide due to their dire financial circumstances. Thankfully I was able to connect them to resources and counseling and tried to give them hope for the future.

Even refugees who do find work must deal with discrimination and injustice. Many are hired for low pay, asked to work extra hours, and some are not paid for the work. They are vulnerable, because they are not fluent in English and do not know their rights. Earlier this year, several Bhutanese men working at a downtown Portland restaurant were cheated of their paychecks. It took two months for community leaders to persuade the restaurant owners to pay them.

Bhutanese refugees are very thankful to the U.S. government and to Oregonians for welcoming them to this community and providing hope and an opportunity for a new life. But we need more support to thrive here. Families are simply not prepared for the complexity of American life. We need longer individual and group orientations, more vocational training, and more civic engagement. Portland resettlement agencies need volunteers and mentors to help refugees with school registration, transportation, and orientation in Oregon and in American culture… Read more here

Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Face Unemployment, Eviction and Medical Bills

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 28, 2010

The number of Bhutanese refugees who have departed Nepal for the United States will reach 30,000 sometime in the first week of September, according the US embassy in Kathmandu. But success in the U.S. for the Nepali Bhutanese sometimes seem elusive. According to an article in Fargo Forum newspaper these refugees are grappling with the specter of unemployment, eviction and medical bills. Although North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at least ten refugee families, just among the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in Fargo, have faced eviction notices.

…Community leaders say about 20 percent of Bhutanese of working age in town are unemployed. The newcomers are eager for work, but in an already tough job market, their candidacies can run into extra pitfalls…

…Even some of the Bhutanese who lined up jobs can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck….

…at least 10 families…have received eviction notices. With seven of them to his name, one [Bhutanese refugee] jokes, is “addicted to (the) eviction notice.”…

…Chilling stories about outsized medical bills have spread through the community. A retinal detachment surgery Kashi’s wife needed in the Twin Cities, for instance, set the family back about $12,000, which he’s vowed to pay off gradually.

If we are sick, we don’t go to the hospital – this is our scary part,” says [one Bhutanese refugee]…

Pierre Atilio, until recently a longtime immigrant advocate at Cultural Diversity Resources in Moorhead, says refugees across the board are grappling with economic survival.

In December, he accompanied an Iraqi widow to the Salvation Army. She resettled in the area with her teenage daughter and son in his 20s in 2008. Of the trio, she alone had lined up a job, four months after arriving here: a $7.50 an hour housekeeping gig.

It was a Friday; save for the Salvation Army intervention, she would have been evicted that Sunday.

You are confronted with poor people with fear in their eyes,” Atilio says. “And they are in America, the most powerful country in the world.”

The new-American services team at LSS says 2008 and early 2009 was a rough stretch for refugees. New arrivals weren’t landing jobs, and some who came earlier saw their hours or positions cut…

…And the recent crop of refugees has dodged actual evictions, a fact LSS is proud of, says [LSS refugee services director] Sinisa Milovanovic: “Within a year to a year and a half, we don’t see people contacting us anymore.”  Read more here

I’m not sure I understand why LSSND is proud that ten of the Bhutanese refugee families have faced eviction notices when North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and many more jobs than any other state. Yet, as I’ve found, in the refugee resettlement culture everything seems to be relative. If they have “less” evictions among their refugee clients they feel proud. But in Fargo? The place has cheap rents, low cost-of-living, and relatively plentiful jobs compared to any other place in the nation.

Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Cheated Out of Wages

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 27, 2010

A group of Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in Fargo who were cheated out of their wages have won a complaint they placed with the North Dakota Department of Labor, according to an article in Fargo’s Forum newspaper.

A group of young Bhutanese refugees took their case all the way to the North Dakota Department of Labor this summer – and won.

The department recently found in favor of four workers who say they were paid a fraction of what they earned working for a Fargo business called the Happy Norwegian Cleaning Crew.

The owner, Kristi Ness, approached (a Fargo immigrant assistance group] and…said she could use workers for a new business.

The Happy Norwegian Cleaning Crew had landed a contract to clean the bakery at [a local grocery store] in south Fargo. Tika Lamitarey and three other Bhutanese jumped at the opportunity.

Lamitarey says it wasn’t until three months and, in his case, 225 hours of work later, that the workers got their first paychecks. His was for $700, some $1,100 less than what his time sheets suggest he was owed…He and the other workers quit in June [then] they put together wage claims with the Labor Department.

I was so optimistic when I first came to America,” Lamitarey wrote to Kathy Kulesa at the department, “but nowadays my optimism is transferred into an oasis of pessimism and failure.”

Kulesa said Ness did not respond to two letters asking for a response. Last month, the department ruled in favor of the workers and referred the case to the state’s attorney general for collection.

…“She used us, thinking we are new American and we can’t do anything,” he says… Read more here

Apparently the refugees resettlement agency Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) then got involved and tried to bring the two parties together for negotiation.

…After the determination, Ness sent a letter to the department stating she had tried to pay the workers during an August meeting at Fargo’s Lutheran Social Services. Lamitarey, a student at North Dakota State University, said he and his friends left the meeting when Ness started negotiating about the amounts…

We spoke to the Bhutanese refugee Tika Lamitarey and asked who had placed in the job. He said that an immigrant assistance organization had referred him to the job six months after his arrival. We asked if LSSND had done anything to help him find a job before that and he said that they had only once helped him apply for a job, at a local hospital. Of course that might explain why he was still unemployed and desperate for a job six months after his arrival.

This phenomena of groups of refugees being cheated out of wages is nothing new to me. I assisted a group of Lost Boys of Sudan refugees in Chicago when a company that handled security at O’Hare International Airport cheated them out of their wages as well. People target refugees for this abuse because they deem the refugees as vulnerable and not able to fight back as

Long Wait for Refugee Health Care in City of Brotherly Love

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 22, 2010

An article in WHYY News and Information gives more information about the welcome that newly arrived refugees face in Philadelphia. Some refugees have waited as long as three months just for health screening.

The Philadelphia region is seeing a new influx of political refugees from the South Asian nation of Bhutan. Like other refugees, they are entitled to eight months of medical coverage. But providing that care is a challenge.


Jefferson Family Medicine dedicates Wednesday afternoons to refugees. Nearly three years ago, when the clinic opened, many of the refugees came from Myanmar, then a few Iraqis, some Eritreans. Now, it’s the ethnic Nepalis from Bhutan. Clinic director Dr. Marc Altshuler says one of the first steps is to make sure everyone has had their shots.

Altshuler: The kids cannot go to school without vaccines, and if the kids don’t go to school the parents can’t go out and get a job.


The Nationalities Service Center, a resettlement agency, helped launch the Jefferson clinic. Now, demand for the clinic’s services has the agency looking for other providers capable of the same type of one-stop care…

…Newly arrived refugees should have an initial health screen within 30 days, but it took more than three monthsfor Bagi Adhikari and her adult son Kamal to get in to see Dr. Packer… here

So a question becomes why continue to place more new refugees in Philadelphia if health screenings are delayed so dangerously long? It’s not like the city is a particularly safe place for the refugees’ children, here. Of course resettlement agencies such as theNationalities Service Center isn’t going to advertise to the State Department that their area has late health screenings and dangerous schools. That will have to wait until the State Department does one of its once-in-a-decade inspections. Even then, the State Dept. will simply note the problems and suggest that the Center make some attempt to correct it. In the meantime years have passed in which refugees have gone months at a time without medical care, and have also been harassed, attacked, and assaulted on the streets and in the schools. That’s how our refugee resettlement program operates.

The refugees can have serious health problems while they sit for months without medical care. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a common ailment.

…The ailments differ with each refugee group but latent tuberculosis, malnutrition and malaria are common. When the Adhikaris arrived last winter, both were a little underweight…

Altshuler: We spend time asking ‘Why did they become refugees?’ cause that can help us figure out … Were they exposed? Were they beaten? But the bigger picture is, are they sometimes at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder because of what they went through? …

…Altshuler: We see significant mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder. We’ve been trying to collect a lot of data on the refugees that we’ve been seeing, and I think our rates of PTSD are probably two to three times higher than the national rate.

All are adjusting to a new city and culture; Altschuler says some also have stubborn, decades-old hurts that resurface once they’re safe…

…The Nationalities Services Center recently hosted a training session for health providers on the medical and mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

It seems as though the main reason the US refugee resettlement program resettled refugees to Philadelphia is because a national volag, the USCRI, happens to have an office there – Nationalities Service Center. Is that really a “rational plan for resettlement”? That’s what the volags have to prove to the State Department each year in their annual report (see Guidelines for Participants).

Strategy for Site Selection

Headquarters should have in place a coherent strategy for selecting resettlement sites and placement of individual refugee cases. That strategy should show evidence of adaptability to new circumstances, e.g., influx of new ethnic groups, welfare or economic changes in any given location. Such strategy should also provide adequate justification for continued use of a site with poor employment outcomes.

But the USCRI essentially just recommends all the places where it already has affiliate offices as good refugee resettlement sites. Therefore, long after South Philly is no longer a rational place to resettle refugees, the State Department continues to let its contractor (USCRI) place refugees there.

Refugee Children Get Harassment and Assault Orientation at South Philly School

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 21, 2010

New refugee students in South Philadelphia are learning that their new school may be much more dangerous for them than the refugee camps they came from. On December 3rd students at South Philadelphia High attacked 30 Asian students, mostly refugees. The violence sent seven Asian students to hospitals, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Many Asian students who walk into South Philadelphia High on Tuesday morning will be carrying something besides books.

In pockets and purses, they’ll tote a pamphlet called “Staying Safe.” It was given to them by community leaders who ran a special orientation aimed at teaching the students an important lesson: what to do if they’re attacked at school.

Knowing how to report harassment or assault is a skill most would prefer not to need. But it’s the reality of life at the school, where 30 Asians were attacked by groups of mostly African American students Dec. 3.

The violence sent seven Asians to hospitals and led about 50 to stage a weeklong boycott… here

A community leader told the students that she doesn’t know if changes will do anything to make them safer, in spite of the school being outfitted with extensive new security and programming.

…Last week, school administrators held new-student orientation, a day complete with cheerleaders in uniform and volleyball-team hopefuls knocking a ball around the gym.

The Asian session was a study in contrast. At FACTS charter school in Chinatown, three dozen students from Myanmar, China, Nepal, Vietnam, and elsewhere gathered to listen and talk.

“You guys are walking into the continuing story,” Nancy Nguyen, head of the local chapter of Boat People SOS, told the students. “We don’t know if the school is better. There are a lot of changes, but we don’t know if it’s better.”

The changes include security cameras and programming additions such as an Asian arts initiative and an in-school center for immigrants. A new antiharassment policy is in the works. The Justice Department, which recently informed the district it found merit to the Asian students’ civil-rights complaint, could impose more change.

At FACTS, organizers explained what harassment looks and sounds like, a raw introduction to students new to American culture and schools. Harassment, students heard, can be based on the place of your birth, the accent of your speech, or the shape of your eyes.

The instruction cut close to the bone, particularly when the leaders distributed a list of racial slurs and told the students: It’s wrong. And you need to know that slurs can escalate quickly and violently.

That’s common knowledge to children raised in America. But immigrants can be too limited in English to recognize racist language – and the danger it may portend.

Most of the students were heading into ninth grade at the school, which is 18 percent Asian and 70 percent African American. Some were hearing for the first time that Asians could be targets.

“If they come to beat us up, I’ll just go to the principal,” said Ghanashyam Gautam, 14, who emigrated from Nepal two years ago…

…The training program broke into subgroups. In one, a dozen students from Nepal squeezed around a table, all eyes focused on Nguyen, the Boat People SOS leader.

“I want to let you know what happened,” she began, telling the story of Dec. 3, ending with how Asian students stayed out of school…

…A discussion ensued in Nepalese. One boy wanted to know, if someone punches him, what should he do? Run away?

The first thing, Nguyen answered, is to get to a safe place. Write down everything that happened. And call one of the Asian leaders.

“It’s important for you guys to let us know if something happens,” Nguyen said…

At times, the students’ moods turned somber, as if they were asking themselves: What am I getting into at the school?

Again, we see the refugee resettlement program resettling refugees into urban areas that are obviously not safe for them or their children. Their ability to stay safe in these environments is much less than the average American’s due to newness to the communities, language barriers, lack of knowledge of rules, etc. Many of these refugees are already suffering from stress-related mental illnesses such as PTSD due to the conditions that originally brought them to refugee camps. If seven students hospitalized for injuries in one day, or a 15-year-old refugee boy murdered in a St. Louis ghetto, isn’t enough to get bureaucrats to reconsider things, what would it take to change their minds?



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