The reason for the conference slated to begin at Michigan State University tomorrow is to bring together lots of levels of the refugee industry to discuss how to get refugees working; and in the case cited, recertified to work in certain professions in the US.
However, I’m wondering if the PR people couldn’t have found a better example of a suffering refugee. The Associated Press story begins with Salah Hashem’s case:
DETROIT – When Salah Hashem slipped out of Iraq and into Turkey in 2006, he carried with him a host of papers, diplomas and official documents proving he had graduated from Baghdad University and had completed his medical residency.
When he arrived in the Worcester, Mass., area a year later, he put those papers to work, beginning a process of professional recertification in an attempt to resume his career in medicine.
But it was not to be.
The organization charged with validating foreign medical credentials told Hashem the name on his diploma wasn’t his.
The story sounds a tad bit shaky to me, but apparently not to the reporter who launches into this next paragraph without skipping a beat:
A stagnant economy, bureaucratic hurdles and difficulty adapting to a new professional scene are presenting refugees like Hashem and the organizations that serve them with a thorny problem: How to get highly skilled refugees in the U.S. back into their professional field.
Well, I guess you might call a name that doesn’t match on a medical document a bureaucratic hurdle, but it sounds to me that Mr. Hashem’s problems go beyond a stagnant economy and too much bureaucracy. But, here is how it is all explained away.
In Hashem’s case, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates raised questions stemming from an Iraqi custom — adding the names of several generations of one’s forefathers on formal documents.
“They rejected my application at that time. They said, `We need a paper from your medical school saying that you are a graduate,”‘ Hashem said. [Very reasonable request wouldn’t you say!] Iraqi universities “make it difficult to get you your papers if you are in a foreign country. They don’t really want to help anybody that fled the country.”
The commission’s associate vice president of operations, Bill Kelly, said while the group is sensitive to cultural differences, the burden is on the candidate to prove the diploma is his or her own. [Does that sound like too much bureaucracy to you? Sounds like the right kind of bureaucracy to me!]
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the diploma that someone gives us belongs to them. We tell them, ‘We need official legal documentation that both the names belong to you,”‘ said Kelly. “It may inconvenience them some but our feeling is that the integrity of our process must be protected.” [Your integrity and the health of Mr. Hashem’s future patients!]
He barely failed! When is the last time you heard that phrase. We are accustomed to hearing “barely passed,” but “barely failed?’
After retrieving the papers, Hashem registered for the first of four licensing exams. He barely failed his first attempt. Now, his brother has fled Baghdad after threats on his life and is unable to get the documentation a second time.
Barely failed! Maybe more paperwork isn’t necessary afterall.