Update 2/17/08: See my post that follows up on this one here.
Update 2/20/08: New information on this story here.
Just this morning I posted on a ho-hum article about Burmese refugees arriving in Connecticut and now, thanks to a reader, I’m posting on another article from the same paper about a volag not taking care of refugees.
This happened in Hagerstown, MD near where we live and it’s what Chris Coen of Friends of Refugees described to us too—non-profit groups funded by the federal government leaving refugees in a lurch. Luckily in Waterbury, CT the refugees have some church people looking out for them. This time the culprit appears to be the International Institute of CT which must be a subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigration.
Confusion about late fees for missed rent payments, missed doctor’s appointments and letters from the Department of Social Services have left many refugees frustrated and angry. Some no longer trust the institute to handle their concerns, said Diana Monti of the Living Faith Christian Church. But Oliver denies that. “That’s not what we’re hearing from them,” she said. “They’re going to have to have confidence in us. They’re going to have to trust us and we are going to respond to their concerns.”
Additionally, a nurse at a local middle school says she has called the institute four to six times over the last two months to facilitate immunization requests for six refugee students. Brenda Gugliotti, of West Side Middle School, says the institute has not returned her phone calls and if the students do not receive immunizations by mid-March, they will be excluded from school. “I try to be fair,” said Gugliotti. “But this is my last warning… It’s very frustrating and it’s very, very time consuming… I have a few children in the building who are medically fragile. It’s not fair. The International Institute does not answer. These are not the only six children in the building.”
This article raises a couple of issues. I really don’t get it, why aren’t these NGO’s who are contracted to take care of the refugees taking care of them? Read the whole article and you’ll see that the volag people are throwing blame to the refugees. Can you imagine being in a very foreign country and within a few months being expected to fend for yourself with government bureaucracy?
And, then the second issue it raises is the one about health. Ft. Wayne, IN has had a very challenging time dealing with health issues with its Burmese population and Waterbury, CT really must get on top of any problems right away. In Ft. Wayne the big concern has been the cost of immunization and the high number of refugees with TB. For readers interested in health issues see our whole category on the subject here.