The Rohingya: Time magazine now and then

I just wanted to be done for today, to relax on a Friday night, instead I am steaming mad.  A little while ago I got an “e-update” from our favorite refugee industry lobbying group, Refugees International, lamenting the plight of the Rohingya illegal aliens trying to get into Thailand.

I will grant that if the reports are true, the Thai military has really screwed up badly by treating the illegal aliens cruelly and possibly killing hundreds.

However, I have been watching the development of the Rohingya refugee issue for a year now—the steady drumbeat about how the poor suffering stateless Rohingya need to come to the west to live.   That is what all this is working up to, and the Thai government has now handed the refugee pushers the perfect public relations coup.

The story of the Muslim Rohingya boat men is making the rounds of all the major media including Time magazine.  Gee didn’t Newsweek just screw up badly a week ago in a report about Somalis in Maine?   I guess it’s Time’s turn to give us the politically correct story—the whitewashing of anything to do with Muslim immigrants.


The rescued Rohingya in India and Indonesia are likely to be “repatriated” to Bangladesh — a return to Burma would spell arrest and far worse. The Rohingya’s lot in Burma is dire, says Sean Garcia, a consultant for the Washington-based Refugees International. “They are not allowed to survive,” he says. Denied state documents, the Rohingya have to apply for permission to move from village to village, to repair a mosque, even to get married. Rohingya frequently fall victim to forced-labor drives by the military. The Burmese government, say Rohingya rights-groups, sees them as interlopers in the predominantly Buddhist land.

I’m not defending actions of the Burmese Junta but apparently they fear the ever- expanding Muslim population and for good reason.  With a growing radical Islamic insurgency in its south, that is Thailand’s concern too, but these mainstream media outfits dare not mention that.

Then here is another paragraph from Time.  I ask you, does this sound like straightforward reporting?

As a consequence of their downtrodden condition, the Rohingya don’t have the kind of diaspora-based support groups that provide publicity and aid to some of Burma’s other oppressed minorities. [Editor:  This is factually untrue, they have many support groups, we know, we hear from them]   Their plight, though, may be a central issue at the next regional ASEAN Summit, which will take place at the end of February in Thailand. By then, observers hope the Thai government will employ different methods in tackling the problem. “Governments in the region need to put together a proactive plan to meet the needs of the Rohingya,” says Garcia. “You can’t literally make these people go away, as if they were less than human.” But for thousands of Rohingya refugees, that is a fate to which they are all too accustomed.  [Who wrote this, a Time reporter or a refugee lobbyist?]

And then…..

Here is what Time magazine said about Rohingya on October 14, 2002 in an article entitled, ‘Deadly Cargo’ by Alex Perry.  What, no search function at Time?

Today, southern Bangladesh has become a haven for hundreds of jihadis on the lam. They find natural allies in Muslim guerrillas from India hiding out across the border, and in Muslim Rohingyas, tens of thousands of whom fled the ethnic and religious suppression of the Burmese military junta in the late 1970s and 1980s. Many Rohingyas are long-term refugees, but some are trained to cause trouble back home in camps tolerated by a succession of Bangladeshi governments. The original facilities date back to 1975, making them Asia’s oldest jihadi training camps. And one former Burmese guerrilla who visits the camps regularly describes three near Ukhia, south of the town of Cox’s Bazar, as able to accommodate a force of 2,500 between them.

Isn’t it just possible that the Thai government does have something to fear from hundreds of Rohingya men arriving in Thailand?   Why can’t any of you even say this?  It infuriates me!   Why can’t you refugee lobbyists and your media lackey’s be completely honest with the public?  

Maybe solutions could be found for some of these seemingly intractable immigrant issues if you all weren’t such leftwing zealots busy manipulating public opinion.

…and thanks for ruining what was going to be a nice evening.

This is my first post (a year ago January) about this earlier Time magazine article.  You can read all about the organized PR campaign to resettle Rohingya Muslims in the west in our special cateory on the topic here.

Obama sends more emergency funds to Gaza

Your tax dollars:

The State Department announced just now, at the end of the day on a Friday, that the US government is dipping into emergency funds for refugees to send $20 million to Palestinians in Gaza.  That brings our FY2009 total to $120,000,000   (FY 09 began on Oct. 1, 2008).

President Barack Obama has authorized the use of $20.3 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund to address critical post-conflict humanitarian needs in Gaza. U.S. Government support for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees and conflict victims now totals nearly $120 million in FY 2009, including nearly $60 million in Gaza.


Today’s contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA’s 2009 appeals.

We have written critically of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) on several previous occasions (here and here are just two posts to get you started).  Many believe the “humanitarian funds” end up in the hands of Hamas and that UNRWA is in the business of perpetuating the Palestinian “refugee crisis” instead of bringing it to an end.

Open borders crowd: Obama immigration reform will come in late 2009

Update May 1:  Obama says it’s this year!

Update April 9th:  New York Times is now reporting that Obama Administration is going ahead with amnesty push soon, here.

Update April 8th:  Center for Immigration Studies confirms CIR will not come anytime soon, here.

Or early 2010!   From New America Media:

Pro-immigrant advocates believe the Obama administration will have a window of opportunity between this September and March 2010 to shepherd a comprehensive immigration package that will provide a path to legalization for an estimated 12 million undocumented residents, strengthen border security and help[!] the ailing economy.

Ira Mehlman, speaking on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says ‘no way’ will the Obama Administration push amnesty if the economy still stinks later this year.

“I’m not sure if any of those folks want to go back to voters in 2010 with the economy bad and say to voters, ‘We didn’t do much to fix the economy, but we passed amnesty for 13 million (undocumented) immigrants,” said Mehlman.

Utah refugees suffering, state to free up federal housing money

Your tax dollars:

Yesterday in a post about thousands of Iraqis supposedly headed to Florida, I mentioned that Utah was one of 15 states where Iraqis had complained they could not find work.

So, as if on cue, this morning there is news from Salt Lake City that Utah is attempting a last ditch plan to rescue suffering refugees from the high cost of housing (and lack of jobs).  The article in the International Herald Tribune begins:

After escaping violence in Myanmar and spending 27 years in the bamboo huts of a United Nations camp in Thailand, Nyaw Paw, 33, arrived in the United States to face the traumatic adjustment and cultural vertigo known to every refugee.

But between high rents, lagging federal aid and now a recession that is drying up entry-level work, the transition has become harder than ever, refugee workers say. Overwhelming housing costs are its starkest symptom: Many new arrivals spend 90 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities, leaving them virtually no disposable income and creating enormous hardships, officials say.

According to this article, Utah will be the first state to make federal welfare grants, that would normally go to American poor, available to refugees.

Poor refugees – like low-income Americans – can apply for rent subsidies, which require that recipients spend 30 percent of their income on rent, with the U.S. government picking up the rest. But in Salt Lake City, there is a two-year waiting list, and it is longer than that in many other cities.

Starting next month, in the first program of its kind, Utah plans to soften the huge and growing burden of housing costs by providing rent subsidies to recently arrived families for up to two years. The money is being drawn from unspent federal welfare reserves. Under the welfare reforms of 1996, states can use the U.S. government grant flexibly for families that already qualify for welfare – mainly single-parent families like Paw’s. For them, such help will make a world of difference.

There are not enough jobs for skilled and educated Iraqis or for the largest number of refugees, those with no skills, little education and no command of English.  

Apart from a share of Iraqis who arrive with professional degrees, most refugees these days arrive from Africa and Asia with little education or experience of Western life, and no relatives to help.

U.S. aid has not matched the rising cost of housing, state welfare programs are skimpier than before and cheap housing is ever scarcer. Meanwhile, the jobs that refugees have often ridden to success, like work in warehouses and hotels, are drying up.

There appears to be no one in the refugee industry even taking note of all this, and no one (except us critics!) suggesting we slow down on the number of unemployable people we are bringing into the US.

The housing plan has drawn no significant opposition in Utah, which is generally seen as friendly to refugees. But the size of the U.S. refugee program, which admitted about 60,000 people last year and is widely regarded as advancing humanitarian and foreign policy goals, has been questioned by some. Critics say America allows in too many people who are surely going to require public aid yet have alternative places to live. Paw, for example, could have remained in Thailand by this argument.

“We are much too permissive about letting refugees in,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors reducing immigration. Refugee admissions, he said, should be held “to the very small number of people who don’t have and won’t have any place else to go.”

Mr. Krikorian’s final statement makes sense, but not to people in the refugee industry who think that ALL REFUGEES HAVE NO PLACE ELSE TO GO!

UN says Iraqi refugees will be returning home in droves

The Associated Press reports:

BRUSSELS, Belgium — If the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, the number of refugees and displaced people returning to their homes could more than double this year to 500,000, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday.

After years of extreme violence Iraq is now experiencing markedly improved security, said Daniel Endres, Baghdad representative of the Geneva-based agency.

“Although this security remains fragile, last year we saw a significant return as a result,” he told journalists in Brussels.

More than 220,000 Iraqis who fled abroad or were displaced within the country after the U.S.-led invasion returned home in 2008, according to U.N. statistics.

There are still nearly two million external refugees and 1.6 million internally displaced persons.  Two things should speed up their return.

One, the Iraqi government is taking stronger steps to solve the problems that discourage their return. The first, of course, was the violence, and that is down to a point where it is not a barrier to return. Another big problem is housing.

[The government’s recent action] includes setting up a special army unit charged with evicting militia members and others who moved illegally into homes owned by people forced to flee the violence.

The article doesn’t say if they’re doing this, but the Iraqi government or our government also needs to provide new housing because so much was destroyed during the fighting.

Another problem is jobs, but I believe from little hints I’ve read that the Iraqi economy is recovering nicely. Iraqis have a tradition of entrepreneurship, and that will serve them very well. (Maybe we in America could recover that tradition and get the government to encourage it here instead of taxing and regulating it to death!)  And this will be an important spur to return:

[I]nternational refugee organizations have been encouraged by the government’s recent moves to normalize the situation and encourage returns.

We noted a few weeks ago that one of the big organizations had changed its policy to encourage returns rather than resettlement. And now the UN appears to agree. This is wonderful news. Of course, this being the AP, we have to get the downer at the end:

Many refugees are also reluctant to return because standards of living in places such as Syria and Jordan are much better than in Iraq. Issues such as the lack of basic utilities and services, including perennial electricity shortages and problems with sewage, sanitation and other services, also hinder returns, Endres said.

Are these the same refugees who are in such dire straits in Syria and Jordan that they are selling their women on the streets, as we’ve read so many times?

In my Google alert, where I found this item, only Fox News had picked it up. I’ll look today for coverage in the mainstream media of how this huge problem (which was all America’s fault, of course) is on its way to being solved. But I suspect I won’t find much. Likewise, the Iraqi elections, which are mentioned in the AP article but very little in the rest of the media.

The elections are relevant to the refugee issue in that the Sunnis, who boycotted previous elections, are taking part. It is another sign of normalcy, and also a message to Sunni refugees who fled fearing the Shia majority that they are part of Iraq and will be represented in the government.

One question I have that I think will never be answered: We know that a considerable number of the refugee count consists of supporters of Saddam Hussein who fled when he was overthrown because they feared retribution. I have not read anything about them for a long time, but I would like to know what Iraq is doing about them, if anything. If they become the majority of refugees who do not return, are we going to get them resettled here? Just what we need!

Update January 31: I news-googled “Iraqi refugees” to see what kind of play this story got in the media. Only Fox News and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty came up, though there may be others that picked up the AP story and don’t show up in the search. Most of the stories are about the terrible plight of the Iraqi refugees. I guess that will remain the dominant narrative until the media can give the Obama administration credit for the improvement.