That makes #11: Jobs are scarce for Iraqis in New Mexico too

New Mexico makes state number 11* in our countdown of states that have scarce employment for educated Iraqi refugees.   And, just think we have brought about 13,000 displaced Iraqis to the US in the last year.   Next year, if Refugees International gets its way with the Obama Administration, we could see over 100,000. They can’t all be employed with your tax dollars!   From Albuquerque:

Last year Catholic Charities helped settle almost 100 Iraqi refugees here, and this year another hundred have come to New Mexico.

The State Department considers New Mexico a good settlement location for Iraqis because of its low cost of living and comparatively adequate social services.

New Mexico might be welcoming with lots of welfare, but apparently jobs are lacking.

Those lucky ones [Iraqis who got in to the US] though still have to find work.

“You had a position and status,” Nutkiewicz (director of the volag, Catholic Charities in NM) continued. “To be asked to flip hamburgers or to work in housekeeping is a very tough blow to the ego, and it’s certainly not fulfilling one’s potential.”

But he hired Saldaif as a caseworker. It’s his first full-time job in the United States, and while it’s not academics, it has the potential to be fulfilling.

How many Americans would also like to have fulfilling work these days?

I noticed in some of the other states where Iraqis are unemployed that the local volag had hired them, but how many caseworkers can a volag use?  If you are new to RRW, you might not know that these non-profits like Catholic Charities get a large portion of their funding from state and federal taxpayers.

There was one little additional mention in the story that interested me.  Saldaif talked about how he came to be in the US because his brother was kidnapped.

“We thought they killed him,” Saldaif (the Iraqi refugee star of this story) said. “They called us and they said go pick up his body from Mosul”

But a short time later coalition forces freed his brother. It was never determined whether an organized terror group or a gang of kids kidnapped his brother.

Am I reading this right?  Is he saying that his brother might have been kidnapped by kids, but no matter, terrorists or kids, sounds like a great story to get us into the US?

* We have jobless Iraqis in Arizona, Maryland, New Hampshire,Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Connecticut and now New Mexico.

No work in Northern Virginia for Iraqi refugees either

We already have Virginia on our list of states* where Iraqis can’t find work, but here is yet another story of unemployed Iraqi refugees, this time from Northern Virginia.

Al-Radhi is one of many Iraqi refugees who call Northern Virginia home. Vu Dang, regional director at the International Rescue Committee’s Suburban Resettlement Center, which helped resettle the family, said Iraqi admissions in 2008 have increased rapidly.

“By far, the Iraqis are making up the majority of our clients,” he said.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement said the United States has resettled 60,192 refugees this year. Of those, 13,823 were Iraqis, 536 of whom have resettled in Virginia. That’s an increase from 2007, when 48,281 refugees came to this country, 1,605 of whom were Iraqis and 64 of whom settled in Virginia.

[Refugees International is pushing Obama to agree to over 100,000 Iraqi refugees for FY09]

Transition to life in Northern Virginia has not been without challenges. Al-Radhi’s asylum was not approved until May, leaving him and his family waiting for months, unable to work legally or establish themselves. Dang said the process is “a very, very long wait . . . you can’t go to work, and you’re living day-by-day, wondering whether or not the government is going to deny your case and then deport you back to Iraq to your certain death.”

However, there are no jobs for this 60-year old former judge and his extended family members.

Al-Radhi and his family have received a great deal of assistance from groups such as the International Rescue Committee and a local law firm that took up their case pro bono. Despite the generosity they’ve received, one major problem lingers: employment.

This next comment is puzzling.  If they didn’t get jobs through competition, how did they get them?  Connections? Bribery?  What?

Americans “deal with us as if we are equal to them, which is a very good thing, but at the same time it’s not really a good thing because they want us to act as Americans. To get a job, I have to compete with you . . . which is absolutely different from the way we get jobs in Iraq,” his son-in-law said.

* We have jobless Iraqis in Arizona, Maryland, New Hampshire,Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, and Connecticut (so far!).

140,000 Iraq refugees return: good news or bad news?

140,000 Iraqi refugees returned home between June and October, and nearly 200,000 for the whole year through October. According to which source you read, this is good news or bad news. Liz Sly’s article in the Chicago Tribune is headlined Iraqi refugees mostly stay away.  The subhead is “Despite increased security, few risk going back home.” It opens:

Retired army officer Ali Dawood Salman moved back to his majority Shiite street in the much troubled neighborhood of Ghazaliyah in October, two years after he fled for his life. Five days later, a hand grenade was tossed over his wall.

“They were trying to scare me,” he said in the front yard of his home, which he refuses to leave a second time. “But I’m not afraid. I’m strong.”

Not all Iraqis are quite so fearless. A year after the U.S. military’s surge strategy began to calm the sectarian violence that had raged in Baghdad’s neighborhoods, the vast majority of those who fled still have not gone home, despite strenuous government efforts to persuade them to do so.

 It takes a few paragraphs to get to the rarity of such incidents.

Though violence against returning refugees is rare, it does occur, said Col. Bill Hickman, who commands U.S. forces in northwestern Baghdad, where some of the worst sectarian violence raged. The U.S. military counted three to four killings of returnees in his area of command, among more than 2,000 families who returned there in September and October.

Hickman went on to say the U.S. military considers the return of refugees a priority, necessary to establishing a stable society. The article then tells a negative anecdote about a returnee, says the UN is not encouraging mass returns, and ends with a positive anecdote about a Sunni man who moved back to his neighborhood that had become wholly Shia. He received a warm reception from his neighbors:

“They were the same, but better,” he said. “They said, ‘You are more than welcome here,’ and every day for a week families brought me breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

On the other hand, CNN reports U.N. gears up for return of displaced Iraqis, a piece containing similar news about the 140,000 returnees, but with a positive slant. It opens:

The U.N. refugee agency is expanding its presence in war-torn Iraq to help accommodate thousands of displaced people, many of whom believe it’s getting safer and easier to return to their homes in once-perilous neighborhoods.

And the positive attitude is coming from the top.

Although the return is a trickle compared to the few million who remain displaced inside and outside Iraq, [UN] High Commissioner António Guterres said the homecoming is “an encouraging sign.”

“It is clear that the security situation has improved,” Guterres said in an interview from Geneva, Switzerland.

Almost all the returning refugees are internally displaced people, an important fact the Tribune article omitted.

The UNHCR is to open four more provincial offices in Iraq next year, giving the agency bases in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces, and it is doubling its Iraqi budget operations to $81 million. More than 100 staffers — local and international — will be involved with the Iraqi government in helping citizens return to their homes.

One key aspect aiding the return is that Iraqi security forces are evicting squatters from peoples’ homes, said Guterres, who stressed that the agency isn’t pushing Iraqis to return, but wants to support those uprooted people who choose to go back home.

The UN’s attitude has changed from pushing resettlement of the refugees in third countries. As recently as October, the UN was claiming that more people were leaving Iraq than returning, while the Iraqi government claimed vastly more people were returning.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the number of people leaving the country is now relatively small. “We’re not seeing large outflows of people going to neighboring states like we once did,” he said.

“It needs to be stressed that a primary concern for refugees outside Iraq remains the security situation, but for those who are getting help from host countries and from the United Nations, they may for the time being feel safer and better off elsewhere,” he added.

But Redmond said the return of some Iraqis illustrates the “increasing confidence that it is possible to go home.”

“Once you get that sort of momentum going, you will see more and more refugees going back.”

This is quite a change from the UN’s attitude a few months ago, when it seemed convinced that all the refugees, at least the external ones, would have to be resettled elsewhere.  As I said repeatedly, so much of the problem is providing housing and settling property disputes. That’s now the UN policy, apparently.

His agency is working with Iraqi authorities to help people get their dwellings back or find another place to live, and with access to food, health care, education and proper housing. They hope to help citizens cut through government red tape and return to normalcy.

Guterres said the return process will be arduous. Re-integrating people into their homes will take time and will need to be accompanied by an economic recovery process, he said.

One challenge is finding “an effective mechanism of property compensation” for people who have lost their homes in the war and can’t get them back.

The UN is showing more sense than the NGOs; see for example Ann’s recent post, Refugees International: Tell Obama to resettle 105,000 Iraqis into US. It’s good to see the UN doing something positive, and I hope the news that it’s working on resettling the refugees in Iraq gets out to the NGOs.

And on the Tribune’s attitude that the returning refugees are only a tiny sliver of the total number, can you imagine what the story would be if many more were returning? I can see the headline: “Returning refugees overwhelm resources in Iraq, create more misery.” It sounds as if the UN and the Iraqi government together are developing an infrastructure to help the refugees and solve the property problems, and once that is established the rate of return will increase.