Israel will build barrier along border with Egypt

Agence France-Press (AFP) reports today:

JERUSALEM – The Israeli government on Sunday approved the construction of a barrier along the border with Egypt in a bid to curb the infiltration of illegal immigrants, a government official said.

A government committee approved the construction of three barriers along the 250-kilometre (155-mile) desert frontier that would block the main infiltration routes, the official said.

The project, which was put forward by the military, was expected to cost between US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) and US$1.5 billion, he told AFP.

Israel will still admit asylum seekers, but wants to put a stop to the flood of people, many said to be people coming to work rather than refugees, and also including drug smugglers. Egypt has clamped down on and even killed people coming illegally into the country, while Israel is more humane and has a good economy too — so that’s where the people are going, of course.

Israel has struggled to put a lid on the influx of human traffic. According to the interior ministry, some 300,000 illegal aliens – including 100,000 migrants, tourists who overstayed their visit and Palestinians – live in Israel which is home to seven million people. But human rights groups say that these figures are inflated.

It’s not hard to believe these numbers, though I have no way of knowing the reality. Israel is a little first-world nation in the midst of heavily populated third-world ones, many of whom violate human rights routinely. Why wouldn’t it attract a lot of people, who can reach Israel’s borders by foot?

For more information see our category “Israel and refugees,” or click here for a listing that is mostly limited to this issue of the Egyptian border.

Update 1/12/10: There is a longer article in the UK Independent today. True to the Brits’ current hatred of Israel, it focuses on the Israeli left’s criticisms of the government’s position on the refugees from Africa. This is the pattern of so much media coverage of Israel: It quotes every possible criticism of Israel, without ever contrasting Israel’s actions with those of other countries. This article, for example, includes this sentence:

To justify its often harsh approach, the Israeli government has been repeatedly playing on the core fears of public opinion.

What harsh approach? Not wanting every migrant that wants to cross its borders? That sentence is not a quote from a leftist critic; it’s the reporter’s idea of objective journalism.  Here’s the rest of the paragraph:

Tzahi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defence committee, told Israel Radio yesterday that there is no alternative to building the fence. “The infiltration of the migrants is threatening the very existence of Israel and its character,” he said. The country defines itself as both a Jewish and democratic state, something its leaders believe depends on maintaining the country’s present clear Jewish majority.

But critics call the policy nationalist and racist. (Some racists: Israel has gone to great lengths to fetch the Ethiopian Jews, resettle them in Israel, and teach them to adapt to the modern world.) They claim the government is just trying to frighten the public.

Here’s how laughably biased this is:

The fence decision comes as the government readies to push through the Knesset draconian legislation specifying prison sentences of five to seven years for “infiltrators” and Israelis who assist them. It also follows revelations that Israeli troops have heightened their cooperation with Egyptian counterparts at the border. According to an army response submitted recently to the Israeli supreme court, at one sector of the frontier, Israeli troops fire flares to “draw attention” of Egyptian soldiers to border sites where refugees and asylum seekers are crossing.

Egyptian forces killed 39 people trying to cross into Israel during 2008 and 2009, according to Amnesty International.

I see. Israel builds a fence, sends up flares, and puts infiltrators in prison, while Egyptians kill them, but Israel is the bad guy. 

The last few paragraphs, in contrast, are a fair and informative history of the problem.

A chronology of desperation for refugees (and the community) in North Carolina (Part III)

This is the third part in a series I began posting yesterday about refugees left in the lurch in Greensboro, NC and how the citizens of that community, concerned for the refugees’ welfare, have been calling for a breather in the resettlement process that is expected to soon bring another 800 refugees to Guilford Co.   See Part I and Part II.

A Lutheran Family Services employee resigns but the answer to the citizens’ questions about why the flow can’t be slowed is at the end of reporter Lorraine Ahearn’s most recent article, last Friday, in the News-Record:

GREENSBORO — The state director of refugee services resigned at Lutheran Family Services this week as the agency struggles with resettlement problems for recent Iraqi arrivals.

LFS, one of four local nonprofits that contract with the State Department to resettle political refugees from war zones, will review the number of new arrivals for 2010, agency spokeswoman Sabrina Goins said.

The nonprofit has been the subject of ongoing complaints of substandard housing and lack of services for Iraqi refugees brought to Greensboro in late 2009. But Goins said the resignation of state refugee director Kristen Lovett was voluntary and unrelated to complaints from the community. Lovett said she will be working in Ethiopia. Beginning in February, LFS CEO Suzanne Gibson Wise will spend two days each week in Greensboro.

Until a replacement for Lovett is found, the agency’s executive director, Laura Benson, will fill in.

Goins called the review of the resettlement numbers routine. “What’s going to be happening is we’re going to be revisiting the numbers to see what can be handled.”

State Refugee Coordinator Marlene Myers, who monitors the refugee picture for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said she is seeking talks with the State Department and national nonprofits on this issue. This comes after a November meeting with local volunteers who expressed misgivings about the resettlement process.

Four resettlement agencies are competing to resettle refugees in formerly welcoming Greensboro because they are paid by the head and must find cities that don’t squawk too loudly.  Sounds like the refugee advocates are even unhappy; can you imagine the anger of the other citizens who question the logic of this program in the first place.

“If a community is being negatively impacted, we will plan to have conversations,” Myers said of comments she heard at the Refugee Information Network of Guilford meeting in November at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

“I took it as people being concerned about capacity. Do we have the capacity for jobs and self-sufficiency?”

About 40 percent of the state’s incoming refugees will resettle through the four local agencies, according to current projections for this fiscal year. The other local agencies include N.C. African Services Coalition, Church World Services and World Relief of High Point.

That is as many as 800 refugees, some with large families, some coming directly from the war zone. Given the Piedmont’s continuing unemployment and pressure on charities and community foundations, refugee sponsors said they felt overwhelmed by the influx.

Can’t we slow the flow?  Yes you can!  Elected officials, especially at the Federal level, can contact the US State Department and tell them ‘NO more for now!’  Local officials and citizens should call your Congressman and US Senators today and demand a moratorium!  Complain here too!

Now, finally, at the end of Ms. Ahearn’s report is the real answer why, in the face of criticism from apparently all sides, this program in Greensboro is not given a breather—the resettlement contractors are powerful and they want their money!   They will have to lay off staff and close offices if the federal taxpayer funding spigot is turned off!

“A pastor stood up at our very first meeting and said, ‘Is there anything we can do to slow down or halt a little until we can take care of the people and absorb what we already have?’” said the Rev. Virginia Herring, assistant rector at Holy Trinity, one of the churches involved in refugee sponsorship.

Myers said the Triangle experienced a temporary slowing of refugee arrivals last year to allow the area to catch up. The drawback is for the resettlement agencies themselves, if the slowdown lasts.

“If they don’t bring in refugees, they lose their jobs,” Herring said. “Of course, the victims in all this are the refugees.”

Reforms needed!  Get the middle men (these supposed non-profit groups) out of the resettlement business!

Endnote:  The Obama Administration, even in this economic recession, has proposed bringing the largest number of refugees to the US since before 9/11, here.

A chronology of desperation for refugees in North Carolina (Part II)

Please visit Part I of this post from yesterday, here.   In that report I introduced you to the controversy on-going in Greensboro, NC about how refugees are being left in the lurch by their resettlement agency, in this case Lutheran Family Services.*  The post focused on the plight of Iraqis who say they want to go home.  This problem is not new, we have been telling readers about it for years!

NOTE! Not only are these cases of desperation increasing, but we are finally seeing brave reporters taking on the sacred cow—refugee resettlement—and questioning that old presumption of good intentions  that has served to hide the mismanagement of this federal program for decades.

Back to my post. Community faith leaders in Greensboro are saying enough is enough.

GREENSBORO — Guilford County’s resettlement agencies are taking in too many refugees without enough resources to support them, faith leaders said this week.

Recent concern has focused on the plight of newly settled Iraqis at the Hunters Glen Apartments, along with the story of a homeless Burmese refugee who arrived at Greensboro Urban Ministry’s shelter in November.

A key minister in the Refugee Information Network of Guilford said there has been growing unease since last winter, when a wave of African and Burmese refugees arrived and were nearly destitute within three months.

“I’m distressed. We as a community have let this thing go on too long,” said the Rev. Virginia Herring, assistant to the rector at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, who helped form the volunteer network. “This is tragic. It has to be fixed.”

Badi Ali, president of the Islamic Center of the Triad agrees. “You can’t just bring them here to become homeless. This is not the American way. I want the government to stop bringing Iraqis to Greensboro and give us time to absorb what we have. I’m worried about the children, to tell the truth.”

Read the rest of this December 9th article and note the last line.  We have been asking the same question since 2007!

Volunteer advocates, who question why newly arrived families are no longer paired with sponsors to help them in crisis, say the system needs a hard look.

Stalwart News-Record reporter Lorraine Ahearn updated readers with a report on the desperate Iraqis on December, 20th, here.   They eventually got heat, the local faith community asked for a meeting with LFS and LFS said more refugees are coming in 2010 (no matter what anyone says!).

GREENSBORO — Three brothers who moved here from Baghdad in August got the heat fixed in their Hunters Glen apartment for the first time Wednesday night, two days ahead of last week’s snow.

Meanwhile, it took nine days for their Iraqi neighbor with three young children to get a working heating unit after a Dec. 6 report.


But most worrisome to local refugee advocates who called for a meeting last week with leaders of Lutheran Family Services is what happens next.


In Raleigh, LFS supervisor Kristen Lovett did not return phone messages Friday, and president and CEO Suzanne Gibson Wise was unavailable for comment. Regional board chairman Robert Klepfer Jr. of Greensboro also did not return phone messages.

The local agency is one of four nonprofit resettlement agencies that are together expected to absorb 40 percent of the state’s influx of refugees this fiscal year. In a meeting last week with volunteers from the Islamic Center and Sister Gretchen Reintjes, a longtime outreach worker in the refugee community, LFS representatives said the agency will resume resettling new arrivals to Greensboro in January after a Christmas hiatus.

Readers will be reminded of the recent Kansas City, MO revelations of the firing of anyone questioning the care of refugees in that city, here, when they read this comment by a former employee, Joseph Paradis, of LFS.  It is long, but please read it:

This story does not surprise me at all. What surprises me is that LFS has gotten away with so many things that have NEVER made the news. Since the beginning of the regin of Suzanne the list is endless. The people who say these refugees should be sent back should themselves be sent back to their country of origin. Such ignorance will get you nowere quite quickly as I’m sure you have already witnessed in the facsimile of what you call a daily life. As far as LFS I worked there for 12 years and upon the retirement of the founder, William D. Brittain, the agencies morale as well as the leadership took a terrible plunge for the worse. Mr. Bill would have given you the shirt off of his back. The new leader, Suzanne Gibson Wise may let you dine on a crumb left from her meal, if there be any. If ever there was a leader of so-called Christian organization without a heart she is the poster child. Under her reign all that mattered was the comfort of herself and her other incompetents su ch as Vice President’s, Controllers, HR Leads etc. If you ever meet her ask her about her method of Christmastime layoffs. She picks the day of the company Holiday luncheon. Those that are in the office that day are told face to face. Those that are out sick, mono, maternity leave, etc. are sent via courier a package containing a letter of termination and a handful of forms to sign, one such form threatening them if they choose to badmouth LFS after the termination they will forfeit their right to draw unemployment. Of course this was illegal and after the threat of a few lawsuits this tactic was ceased but she went on to bigger and better devices. I will try to refrain from badmouthing this pitiful w oma n but I will tell you this. If you would like to see how much money she made and does make for running LFS into the ground you may go to Guidestar and f ind out. It is quite sickening. As for the refugees, there are people here in America that want you here. Just keep hope and from that hope will grow warmth. To Suzanne, if you would like to pubicly debate anything I have touched on in the post feel free to let me know. We can also speak of you company paid vehicles, the wireless internet in your home, your endless Blackberries, your peronal commode and your $4000.00 office conference table. (Remember, you got it because the one that was in the office when you came wasn’t good enough). Merry Christmas LFS.

I went to Guidestar as recommended and here is the most recent Form 990 for Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas.  Mr. Paradis is right, they have lots of employees making six-figure salaries while refugees have no heat.   And, readers, if these salaries came from private donations of Lutherans across the country, that would be one thing, but taxpayers are paying for most of this.   Be sure to note on that Form 990 how much “government” money they receive.

*Lutheran Family Services is a subcontractor of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (one of the top ten federal refugee contractors).  Note that LIRS’s total federal funding is not recorded at

There is more, look for Part III, next!