The refugee resettlement agencies will blame it on the recession and no doubt it plays a role, but the stories we are hearing about refugees suffering in Bowling Green, KY, Fort Wayne, IN, Pittsburgh, PA and now Greensboro, NC all have a familiar ring. One would almost think that someone wanted to bring about a crisis of too many refugees and too few resources because the stories are so uniform. Not only are the refugees suffering, but people living in the refugee-saturated cities are exasperated.
We have been harping on the mismanagement of the refugee resettlement program ever since we started writing this blog in the summer of 2007 and I believe the economic decline has only served to expose a house of cards that was destined to fall sooner or later. It is falling now.
We first told you about how Lutheran Family Services of Greensboro, NC began cutting back the numbers of refugees it was resettling there in December, 2008, here. They and the city were overloaded and they knew it. Meanwhile Church World Service dashed into the vacuum and they brought more refugees.
Then in November of 2009, we reported on a homeless Burmese man who had been resettled by Lutheran Family Services and was now living in a Greensboro shelter.
In December the News-Record reported another desperate refugee story, this time it involves Iraqis living in substandard housing with no heat, running out of money with no job prospects, and wanting to go home.
GREENSBORO — Having sold her food stamps to pay the water and electric bill, uncertain of how to make December’s rent or feed her disabled husband and three children, Sahar al-Janabi, 38, had one request.
“We want to go back to Iraq,” she said last week on a cold evening in the family’s apartment at Hunters Glen near U.S. 29 and East Cone Boulevard. “Can you find someone who will help us get back?”
Unfortunately, there is no one to help them go back (except maybe the Iraqi Embassy in Washington) and besides they still owe their airfare loan from the State Department that got them to North Carolina in the first place. Adding insult to injury, a portion of that loan repayment goes to the resettlement agency (that put them in lousy housing in a dangerous neighborhood) as a bill collection fee!
Meanwhile, at the al-Janabi apartment, they fretted over the first bill they received in the U.S. — for $5,454.
“Welcome to America!” it said. “You will recall that before your departure from overseas, you agreed to repay the transportation expenses incurred by you and your family in coming to the United States. …”
Tomorrow Part II: Christian and Muslim volunteers are at their wits end and can’t cope with the numbers. (Here)