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हिजो आज र भोलि—4

August 4, 2012

Ethnic Nepali refugees from Bhutan face generation gap

Posted on June 23, 2012

Older generation want to go home; the younger are seeking a new life in the west.

Nepal-Bhutan-refugees-family 

A Bhutanese refugee shopkeeper looks out from his shop at The Beldangi II Refugee Camp 300km south-east of Kathmandu. Photograph: Prakash Mathema/AFP

“Look how happy we used to be,” says Harka Jung Subba, pointing to a family photograph hanging on the wall of his hut. It shows him, his wife and their six sons and daughters when the family still lived in Bhutan, more than 20 years ago.

In 1990 they were forced to flee because of persecution of ethnic Nepalis. Harka thought they would be away only long enough for things to settle down again. But Harka and more than 100,000 other Bhutanese refugees have been living in refugee camps in Nepal ever since.

His son, Ram Kumar, seen in the family photo as a boy, moved to the US last year with his wife and his own two children as part of a UN resettlement programme. Fearful that his father would not give his consent to let him go (the UNHCR requires all members of a household to attend the verification interview), Ram, now 33, left with his mother’s blessing, while Harka was in India lobbying politicians and rights activists to pressure Bhutan’s government for repatriation.

“My son, who grew up in my arms, left without saying goodbye. I am sure I will never see him again,” Harka says. His other sons are now also pushing him to let them leave the camp.

For the younger generations, who have lived in the camps all their lives, reliant on handouts as they are forbidden by law to work, the resettlement programme is their only way out. But the older refugees have no desire to move away from their community to a foreign country with an alien culture and a language they will never learn.

Harka, 68, admits he is fighting a losing battle against his grown-up sons. So far resettlement has been the only solution offered. In 2006, following 15 rounds of failed bilateral negotiations between the Bhutanese and Nepali governments, Washington offered an alternative: moving to America. Within a year more than 25,000 refugees had applied for resettlement in the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. A further 15,000 are expected to be resettled by the end of this year, while 50,000 more have registered.

Harka was one of the first 100 refugees to arrive in Damak, one of the six settlements in Jhapa district in south-eastern Nepal. He says they had a good life in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where he was a government official and owned a large farm. But in 1989, threatened by the prosperous Hindu Nepali-speaking minority, the government imposed a policy of Bhutanisation. Under the policy “one nation, one people”, only Buddhism, Bhutan’s main religion, could be practiced, while a Bhutanese dress code, culture and language was enforced. Many of the ethnic Nepalese had their land confiscated and were stripped of their citizenship.

Harka says he protested against the arrest of some key Bhutanese democratic leaders. Afterwards he was threatened by government officials, including members of the army. He fled. The army seized his house. Harka and his family lived in Tsirang district, in south Bhutan, a fertile area, in the foothills of the Himalayas, lush and green. Farmers grow rice, maize and millet, while major cash crops include oranges, mandarins and cardamom.

Now Harka’s home is a two-room hut. With mud floor, bamboo walls and roof, it can barely fit two beds so the family take it in turns to sleep on the floor. The camp has no electricity and the sanitation system is poor. There isn’t enough water and Harka says they have no access to newspapers or television. In the dry summer temperatures can reach 45C, with accidental fires, while in the monsoon low-lying Damak is vulnerable to flash floods. In the winter the walls do little to keep out the cold and fog.

Harka and fellow refugees, such as Maniraj Lama, 60, long to return to their old lives. “We have waited this long and we still can wait to go home,” Maniraj says. But Sandeep Bhattarai, 23, doesn’t remember Bhutan. His father refuses to give him permission to leave. “I still have the ability to start something new,” he says. “I don’t want to grow up as an old refugee and suffer like my parents. I have to think of myself and my younger sisters.”

Sandeep works as a volunteer in a school in the camp for a small allowance. He says most of his friends are now school graduates or have finished college and are pursuing further studies. Sandeep explains that the rules about not working are not strictly adhered to; however, high unemployment means there are very few jobs and even if they get a job, they get paid less than a Nepali would.

Jiten Subba, a Bhutanese journalist in exile in Nepal, says the resettlement helped to reduce the violence, crimes and insecurity among the frustrated youth as many started to concentrate on improving their skills. But for every success story that filters back from resettled refugees, there are stories of hardship and isolation.

Another Bhutanese journalist, Thakur Prasad Mishra, 24, grew up in the refugee camps in Nepal and moved to New York as part of the resettlement programme in July last year. He explains that most of the older refugees who have resettled suffer from depression. “The elderly mostly stay inside their apartments as they have no idea how to use the public transport. They even require someone to guide them to visit a nearby hospital.”

Mishra does believe that life is still better in a new country than in the refugee camp, but he warns that elderly people with no children are better off staying behind.

The UNHCR says it continues to advocate for voluntary repatriation to Bhutan. But for now that road seems to be a dead end.

Harka sums up the feelings of many of the older refugees when he says emphatically: “I would rather hang myself and die here in the camp than follow my children to a new country.” This is not a throwaway line. Suicide rates are high in the camp as many refugees suffer from depression. Maniraj Lama’s wife hanged herself one day while he went out for a walk. It has made him more determined than ever to get back to Bhutan.

In the meantime, Harka worries that more young people will leave, abandoning their elders. “The rift between the old and young generation is worsening,” he says. “There is bad blood between the old parents and their children.”

The photograph on his wall reminds him of what he has to lose as well as what he has already lost.

Source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/04/nepali-refugees-bhutan-generations

Posted on June 14, 2012

Learning The Language In North Dakota

BY JASON MARGOLIS ⋅ SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 ⋅ POST A COMMENT

Fargo police officer Cristie Jacobsen has responded to a lot of 9-11 calls, but few with less urgency than this one. “A teenage girl called the police on her mother because her mother had prepared a very simple ethnic meal for her and she didn’t like it,” said Jacobsen.

Coming to a new nation as a refugee — adjusting to a new language, culture, and climate — is always a struggle. But now in Fargo, N.D. many refugee parents are being manipulated by their children.

 

Fargo police officer Cristie Jacobsen works with refugee children (Photo: Fargo Police Department)

Refugee children have been calling the Fargo Police because they don’t want to do the dishes or wear a particular shirt. They’ve also gotten a lot of calls about this: Parents were taking away their kid’s Mountain Dew.

“The children didn’t like it,” said Jacobsen. “Because they had gotten used to drinking it, they enjoyed the caffeine splurge and things like that and so it became a power struggle.”

To help deal with problems like this, and explain to refugee adults and children what the law and police can and cannot do, the Fargo Police assigned Jacobsen to work as a cultural liaison officer with new refugees. She meets regularly with the refugee and immigrant community, holding workshops and visiting their schools and places of business. Close to 4,000 refugees have moved to the Fargo area since 1997. That’s about 2 percent of the greater population. The refugees have come from places like Bosnia, Liberia, Iraq, and most recently a large influx from Bhutan.

The children have one huge advantage over their parents: They’re able to master English much more quickly.

“The kids get to know the language and the culture, before the parents do. And the parents are terrified,” said Vonnie Sanders, who directs the English language learners program for the Fargo School District.

Sanders said when refugee children arrive in Fargo, they’re quickly placed in school; their parents go to work at isolating jobs such as cleaning hotel rooms or working in chicken processing plants. The parents do get some English instruction, but Sanders said the classroom time isn’t adequate.

“It’s two-and-a-half, three hours in the morning. That isn’t enough for them, four days a week,” said Sanders. “The other thing is then when it comes to the end of the month, it’s $2.50 to ride the bus, they can’t afford to get there. Or, they have a sick kid, they can’t go.”

In Fargo, there’s another barrier to English-learning: the winters.

“Fargo, we actually won some national competition of being the worst weather city in the US,” said Cristie Jacobsen. She pumped her fist and added with an insincere cheer, “Yea, us.”

Winter temperatures regularly dip down to below 10 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit in Fargo. “And then with our wind-chill factor, we can get into negative 30, or negative 40,” said Jacobsen.

Now imagine you’re a refugee from Rwanda or Sudan. And you don’t have a car because you came to this country with nothing. And there’s no direct bus to class.

“And so, you’ll see them just bundled up like little Eskimos, walking a couple of miles to English class and back to their homes,” said Jacobsen.

 

Heather Ranck teaches at the University of Mary in North Dakota (Photo: Heather Ranck)

The refugees’ lack of English skills has also caused some tension in the community. Heather Ranck teaches an international business class at the University of Mary in North Dakota where she has her students write a letter to the editor about an international issue of concern.

“And time after time, in every class I would see a fairly negative article from the students about why there were so many immigrants moving into the community, a lack of understanding about who refugees were or why they were here,” said Ranck.

This got Ranck thinking: there has to be a better way. She helped raise money through the local Rotary Club to provide alternative places and times for refugees to learn English. They’re also using the classrooms and resources of the local school system, which the Fargo school district is providing.

In an evening class I visited, about a dozen refugees from Bhutan and Ethiopia were hunched over computers, looking at colorful images on the screens. They were using software from the company Rosetta Stone. A voice described the photo, then the students repeated a syllable, a word, or a phrase into a microphone. The students were paired with volunteer tutors from the Rotary Club.

The students were engaged and seemed to be learning, but the software wasn’t perfect. One woman was trying to say the last syllable of the word “children,” repeating the syllable “dren” over and over for about 30 seconds.

 

Refugee learning English in Fargo (Photo: Heather Ranck)

Several volunteers got a little frustrated with the process. “You’re going to have to speak louder. Don’t worry about us. If you have to, yell it,” said one volunteer to a student.

I spoke with several refugees about their experience learning English, unable to go too in-depth with my questions, because, not surprisingly, they don’t speak much English. Still, I asked Bedha Adhikari from Bhutan: What was better, the classroom or the computer?

“Easier in the computer,” said Adhikari. “Because we listen to the sound and accent, that is why it is easier to understand.”

Rosetta Stone has been used successfully with school children. The US government and military also utilizes the language immersion software. But there haven’t been any definitive studies that show how well the software works with refugees. But local Rotarian Heather Ranck provided this unscientific assessment: “I think it is working.”

When Ranck says “it is working,” she’s talking about more than just the software. She says it’s working because local volunteers are interacting with the new immigrants. And they’re creating connections between communities.

Ranck said eventually the Fargo Rotary Club would like to offer the computer-based program in more locations throughout the area, at places like local libraries. The limiting factor, however, as always, is cost. The software is expensive. Right now, the Rotary Club only has funds for about 15 software licenses.

source:

http://www.theworld.org/2011/09/learning-english-north-dakota/

 

Posted on June 14, 2012

9-26-10, Struggling to succeed, Fargo Forum newspaper

 Published September 26 2010

Struggling to succeed

Bhutanese bent on getting ‘American’ right
Before his refugee cash assistance dried up this spring, Hari Lamitarey popped “job interview” into Google.

By: Mila Koumpilova, INFORUM

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    Hari Lamitarey, middle, and his cousin Ganga Adhikari, left, talk about the hardships they face in finding jobs. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
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    Ganga Adhikari leads a class in Hindu prayer Sept. 11 in the garage of a south Fargo apartment. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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    Hari Lamitarey, a Bhutanese refugee living in Fargo, works as a cashier at Walmart in Fargo. “I owe to Walmart because when I had my adversity, it was my first step,” he says. Dave Wallis / The Forum
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    Bhim Lamitarey performs a ritual to honor his deceased wife in Hari Lamitarey’s garage in south Fargo. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
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    Members of the Bhutanese community perform a ritual dance during a Hindu ceremony Sept. 11 in a south Fargo apartment garage. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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    Map: Bhutan

Before his refugee cash assistance dried up this spring, Hari Lamitarey popped “job interview” into Google. He discovered something fascinating.

In America, you don’t bow your head, gaze at your shoes and mutter softly when you talk to a potential boss. Instead, found the soft-spoken, unfailingly smiling Hari, “you should stare them right in the eye. Shake hands without fears.”

Hari, a 30-something Bhutanese, spent his adult life in a Nepali refugee camp. When he arrived in Fargo last fall, he brought a pair of shoes, six pairs of socks and his laminated transcript from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, where he received a master’s in mathematics.

Lutheran Social Services touts the 370 Bhutanese it has resettled in Cass County since 2008 as a success story in the making. They are a spirited, outgoing bunch, bent on getting “American” right. But even as they’ve made a promising start, Hari and fellow Bhutanese say success can sometimes seem elusive.

Some refugees grapple with the specter of unemployment, eviction and medical bills – the very challenges of U.S.-born neighbors, compounded by their profound novelty.

“Back home, we were educated; we were teachers,” says Hari. “Now we are lost. In the country of opportunity, optimism and freedom, we are lost.”

An awesome new place

Next to a string of south Fargo apartment multiplexes is a long tunnel of garages, their white doors facing each other impassively. Smack in the middle is an explosion of color and activity: Hari’s garage.

On any given weekend, there might be women dancing there in pink, red and turquoise saris. There might be a Hindu service at a makeshift altar in the corner, a U.S. flag fluttering over the pictures of Krishna and Ganesha, candles and ficus plants.

Men and women might practice staring each other in the eye and shaking hands fearlessly. Hari’s friend Kashi Adhikari might invoke the dangers of drugs, complacency and excessive Facebook use to cross-legged preteens.

“Seventeen years of refugee life is harder than what we have to do here,” Hari tells them.

The refugees, a Hindu minority of Nepali descent, were driven out of Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist kingdom wedged between India and China that embraced a “One Nation, One People” policy in the early 1990s.

They settled in Nepali camps, thatched-roof-and-bamboo affairs with no indoor plumbing. The camps’ close quarters fostered the tight-knit sense of community the Bhutanese are trying to replicate in Hari’s garage.

Nepal never afforded these refugees citizenship or a chance to integrate into its society. That’s why a few years back, the United Nations set out to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese in six new host countries. Fargo is slated to welcome another 300 Bhutanese in the next three years.

Compared with camp life, America is “awesome,” Hari says. “We were deprived from citizenship all our lives. America is the only country that has recognized us as human.”

Enthusiasm for America runs deep in the Bhutanese community, which turned out en masse to sandbag the past two springs.

Already, there are success stories. A few Bhutanese have bypassed the typical refugee “starter jobs”

in hospitality and manufacturing, Darci Asche of LSS says, including a man LSS hired as a case worker. “There’s a sense of urgency with them. There’s no need on our part to push them or motivate them.”

At first a paraprofessional in the West Fargo School District, Kashi now teaches at the district’s Newcomer Center. Other Bhutanese still search for a sense of belonging.

Finding their stride

On a weekday afternoon, Hari pores over a textbook for the teacher’s license exam known as Praxis in his three-bedroom apartment, which he shares with his wife, brother, sister and parents. On the walls are maps of Bhutan, sayings by Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

Then Hari puts on khakis and a navy polo shirt. His wife, Sumitra, herself in a traditional orange tunic, has ironed his clothes. He purposefully strides the mile to Walmart, where he takes his spot at cash register No. 9. “Have a good one!” he tells customers.

Like fellow refugees, Hari and his relatives each received an initial payment of $900 to get them started and monthly cash assistance after that. The stipends – $353 per month for a single refugee or $570 for a family of three – stop eight months later, earlier if a family member finds a job.

“I owe to Walmart because when I had my adversity, it was my first step,” Hari says, adding that the store and Fargo’s Holiday Inn have both given the Bhutanese a shot.

But Walmart and the Holiday Inn don’t have jobs for all of the community’s Bhutanese.

Community leaders say about 20 percent of Bhutanese of working age in town are unemployed. The newcomers are eager for work, but in an already tough job market, their candidacies can run into extra pitfalls.

Many don’t speak English, and those who do say their accent gets in the way. “Most people don’t understand our accent,” says Hari, “but we understand theirs.”

In Nepal, most Bhutanese had only two employment options: teach youngsters in the camp or work on nearby farms. So they arrive in America with little in the way of work history or references.

These workers, Marty Aas of Fargo’s Job Service office says, run into many of the same hurdles as U.S.-born workers. Many area employers have welcomed them, but “there are still some employers out there who are a bit reluctant because they are concerned about the language and the safety side,” Aas says.

Keeping up with bills

Even some of the Bhutanese who lined up jobs can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck.

Hari can think of at least 10 families who have received eviction notices. With seven of them to his name, one of Hari’s friends, he jokes, is “addicted to (the) eviction notice.”

“When we get eviction notice, we have the ghost in our brain that if we don’t pay, we have bad credit,” Hari says. “That’s killing us.”

So if a family is in such a bind, the community chips in to keep its members in their apartment. There’s also the Salvation Army, which helped four or five households a month this summer whose rent assistance applications identified them as immigrants or refugees. But Tai Leathers, the Salvation Army’s family services director, says many refugees check off “other” on the application.

“Some of them are still optimistic,” Leathers says. “Some of them are very frustrated because that’s not how they expected it would be.”

Chilling stories about outsized medical bills have spread through the community. A retinal detachment surgery Kashi’s wife needed in the Twin Cities, for instance, set the family back about $12,000, which he’s vowed to pay off gradually.

“If we are sick, we don’t go to the hospital – this is our scary part,” says Hari, who swears by his free health care regimen: meditate for 10 minutes each morning, drink lots of water and banish negative thoughts, which sap the immune system.

Pierre Atilio, until recently a longtime immigrant advocate at Cultural Diversity Resources in Moorhead, says refugees across the board are grappling with economic survival.

In December, he accompanied an Iraqi widow to the Salvation Army. She resettled in the area with her teenage daughter and son in his 20s in 2008. Of the trio, she alone had lined up a job, four months after arriving here: a $7.50 an hour housekeeping gig.

It was a Friday; save for the Salvation Army intervention, she would have been evicted that Sunday.

“You are confronted with poor people with fear in their eyes,” Atilio says. “And they are in America, the most powerful country in the world.”

The new-American services team at LSS says 2008 and early 2009 was a rough stretch for refugees. New arrivals weren’t landing jobs, and some who came earlier saw their hours or positions cut.

But things have picked up more recently with Job Service seeing job openings swell and traffic in its office subside somewhat. Few families are hitting the eight-month limit of cash assistance. And the recent crop of refugees has dodged actual evictions, a fact LSS is proud of, says Sinisa Milovanovic: “Within a year to a year and a half, we don’t see people contacting us anymore.”

The only solution

Hari’s father, Bhim, sits in their living room and watches “Ramayan,” a 78-episode Indian series from the 1980s. The series is a remnant from the final years Bhim spent tending his banana orchard before fleeing Bhutan.

Most days, he spends a few hours with the show, as his increasingly busy children drift in and out of the living room along with a stream of Bhutanese neighbors who waltz into the apartment without knocking. Mostly, there’s not much to do.

Hari picks up a four-pack of tiny bottles, each promising five hours of energy, for Bhim, 61. He downs all four in one sitting.

The transition to America has been rough on Bhutanese elders, says Hari. They cherish prayers and celebrations in his garage, a sliver of refugee camp closeness that was splintered in dozens of apartments across the city.

Now, winter threatens to shut down Hari’s garage, and elders, their gazes firmly on their shoes, ask a visitor to pass on an appeal for a temple to the North Dakota governor.

“Our parents are blaming us,” says Hari. “We convinced them to come here. They are not happy, and they want to go back.”

But Bhutanese youngsters are getting the hang of America fast.

Every Saturday, boys and girls gather in the garage for an hour of instruction – a blend of insights into the ways of America and reminders of their cultural identity. Ganga Adhikari, wearing the Hornbacher’s jacket he dons before bagging groceries, teaches the kids to spell “United States of America” in Nepali. The English word “discipline” keeps popping out of his mellifluous Nepali.

Things are looking up for Hari, too, even as they get more hectic. He landed a second job as a paraprofessional at West Fargo’s Eastwood Elementary School. He started taking secondary education classes at NDSU, which recognizes most of his Nepali credits.

“There’s no alternative,” he says. “Going to college is my only solution.”

In a brief lull in the customer traffic at Walmart, he strides to the front of register No. 9. He straightens up the magazine display. Then, he gazes beyond the bristle of signs, announcing, “Unbeatable!”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

Posted on June 14, 2012

A Building, and a City, as a Way Station to a Better Life

 

Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

T. P. Mishra, a Bhutanese, talking to a neighbor in Raleigh, N.C. He had moved from the Bronx, where he lived after leaving a refugee camp in Nepal.

By KIRK SEMPLE
Published: December 31, 2010

For two years, a five-story walk-up apartment building in the Bronx has served as a small beachhead for a new immigrant community: refugee families from the South Asian nation of Bhutan. From this new home on University Avenue, where they were placed by a resettlement agency, the families have made their first, tentative steps in an unfamiliar culture and language.

Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

A wall on Mr. Mishra’s apartment in Raleigh includes family photos and religious iconography.

But now they are on the move again. In the year since The New York Times profiled the building and the eight Bhutanese families who were living there, four of the families have left for other states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont and North Carolina — and most members of a fifth have moved to Albany.

“It’s a tough decision, trying to move from one place to another,” said T. P. Mishra, 26, who spent much of his life in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to New York in July 2009, and is now living in a quiet suburb of Raleigh, N.C. “But obviously when you compare the life, it’s better.”

Such relocations, sometimes known as secondary migration, are common among immigrants to the United States as they chase jobs, reunite with relatives and climb the social ladder.

Yet the experiences of the families on University Avenue also say something about New York. Often portrayed as an ideal spot for new immigrants, with its array of public services and advocacy groups and its fertile mix of ethnicities, the city may not necessarily have all that a newcomer needs to build a future. Indeed, a trove of census data released in December shows how immigrants to America in the last decade have spread out from the big cities where they have traditionally clustered, or bypassed them altogether.

This is especially true for new immigrant populations like the Bhutanese, who, numbering more than 250 since 2008, have arrived in New York in small numbers and lack established social networks to turn to for support. Some are improvising, creating those communities elsewhere — in smaller, less expensive cities where relatives have already been resettled.

Those who have left the Bronx building said they were driven out of the city mainly by the high cost of living, particularly rent.

During his year in New York City, in the throes of the economic downturn, Mr. Mishra and his two sisters struggled to find jobs and were barely able to cover basic expenses, including the $975 monthly rent for their one-bedroom apartment. While new refugees have immediate access to financial support and other services from government and private sources, that aid often begins to dissipate after several months.

“I was used to living in the city, but finally when it turned expensive, I was compelled to leave,” said Mr. Mishra, who moved to North Carolina to be closer to several friends and relatives who had been resettled there.

Officials at the International Rescue Committeethe resettlement program based in New York that brought the Bhutanese to University Avenue, acknowledged the difficulties that the city posed for many refugees. While New York offers extraordinary advantages, they said, including an extensive public transportation system and a network of organizations accustomed to working with immigrants, it could also be costly and, for some, emotionally overwhelming.

“The placement system is imperfect,” said Robert Carey, the agency’s vice president for resettlement and migration policy. “It’s an educated effort to put people where they’re best served.”

Regardless of where they are initially placed, Mr. Carey added, refugees will go where they think they have the best chance of building a successful life. “People are independently finding their way at a certain point, which is not all bad,” he said. “They have to determine what’s going to work for them.”

Abhi Siwakoti, another Bhutanese refugee, decided to leave New York City after trying for months to cover his family’s expenses, including the $1,200 rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the University Avenue building.

Mr. Siwakoti, 25, who had resettled in the Bronx from Nepal in November 2008, was living with his mother, who did not speak English, and three siblings, all of them still in school. He was the only one with a job, but his salary as an office assistant in a Manhattan men’s wear design studio was not high enough.

Fifteen of his relatives had been resettled from Nepal to Albany, so Mr. Siwakoti looked for a job there. A hospital hired him as a patient support associate, and in March he moved his family into a three-bedroom apartment in Albany with an $800 rent.

He has saved enough to buy a used car and start building a nest egg. And the concentration of so many relatives in one place has given his family an instant net of support. They share meals, drive one another to the supermarket and to work, and swap information about job opportunities.

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Mr. Mishra used to live in this building on University Avenue in the Bronx. It has been the first American home for a number of Bhutanese refugee families.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Abhi Siwakoti, another Bhutanese refugee who had lived in the University Avenue building, in his Albany apartment.

They also pass along modern-world skills that were unheard of in the rural Nepalese refugee camps. After Mr. Siwakoti attended a driving school in the Bronx, he began teaching his two brothers, an uncle and a cousin. In turn, he said, they will teach other relatives and friends. “That’s the philosophy that I’m passing along,” Mr. Siwakoti said. “It’s kind of so beautiful to be together.”

For some families, though, that requires a series of deliberate, chesslike moves.

Mr. Mishra, who relocated this fall to Raleigh with his wife, Renuka Adhikari, 24, is already planning another leap, to Charlotte, N.C. There they will join his two sisters, who moved to Charlotte to help relatives adjust to life in the United States. And sometime in 2011, he hopes to welcome his parents, who are still in a Nepalese refugee camp and have started the paperwork for their resettlement.

“The community has been struggling a lot,” Mr. Mishra said. But soon, he predicted, “the community will settle down.”

Meanwhile, the building on University Avenue continues to be an incubator for the American lives of refugees from Bhutan. As families leave, others arrive.

Suk Man Tamang, 32, who came in the summer of 2009 with his parents, two sisters and a niece, has since welcomed eight other close relatives to the building and is expecting at least eight more to resettle in New York this year. But unlike some of his Bhutanese neighbors, he said, he has no plans to leave the city anytime soon.

“Everywhere has negative and positive points,” said Mr. Tamang, an office assistant for a Manhattan software company. “I can say I’m happy now because we have a big family getting bigger and bigger.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/01/nyregion/01bhutan.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2&adxnnlx=1293904810-vSZOGpoGEg2Og33i1SYtbQ

Bhutanese refugees: American dream tantalizes, deceives

Posted on June 14, 2012

oregonlive.com

Bhutanese refugees: American dream tantalizes, deceives

Published: Saturday, December 18, 2010, 2:18 PM
Guest Columnist By Guest Columnist 
bhutanese1.JPGView full sizeThe Oregonian/Torsten KjellstrandMembers of the Bhutanese Club at David Douglas High School discuss the Dashain Tika Festival held recently at the high school. Most of the students in the club grew up with refugee status in Nepal and now are learning to live in a new home here in Portland, where they learn English and try to adapt to American ways. Â

By SOM NATH SUBEDI 

I am a refugee from Bhutan. In the early days after my arrival to Portland, I would call friends and family in the refugee camps in Nepal, telling them the United States is close to heaven and they should try to come as soon as possible.

Now, nearly two years later, I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my “heaven.” Some say they would return, if it were possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that “the American dream” is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal.

GS.11BHUT19.jpgView full size

Still, Bhutanese refugees keep coming here, for lack of other choices. Bhutan, a country tucked between China and India, claims to be one of the happiest and most peaceful places in the world. But in 1990, Jigme Singe Wangchuck, Bhutan’s former king, began the process of ethnic cleansing, with India’s support. He started to evict the Nepali-speaking, Hindu minority population — called Lhotsampas — who had lived in Bhutan since the 17th century. Lhotsampas have been banned from speaking their languages and practicing their religion. The Indian army transported and dumped our people in Nepal, where the United Nations later established refugee camps. Requests to stay in their motherland as bonafide citizens have been met with bullets, bombs, torture and rape. Some 150,000 Lhotsampas have become stateless and homeless.

The Bhutanese, the newest refugee community in Oregon, began arriving in early 2008. More than 33,000 now live in the United States — including more than 400 in the Portland metro area — as part of a State Department resettlement program. Another 30,000 are expected to arrive in the U.S. over the next three years — destined to face an economic crisis that adds to the challenges of their integration.

Twenty years of living in a refugee camp is unimaginable. As a boy, one late, cold and windy winter night, I saw my father pour icy water over his head. When I asked him “Why?” he answered, “I can’t sleep. I am tired and hurting so much and feeling so hopeless at having been forced from my country.”

More on refugees
Click here to see previous coverage of the Bhutanese refugee community.

Confined to small bamboo, thatched-roof huts, refugees like my father could not work or even leave the camp. Young people like myself had few options to get an education. A dependency began to replace our ancient and elegant Lhotsampas traditions.

When the United States opened its door to refugees from Bhutan, we jumped at the opportunity. But a three-day orientation overseas did not prepare us for life in America. We were told how to use a toilet or fasten a seatbelt, but nothing about how to deal with a lack of employment opportunities. Bhutanese refugees suffer intense culture shock when they arrive in the U.S. Separation from family and from everything familiar is overwhelming, as is the trauma of war and refugee camp life.

Instead of patching up leaks in straw roofs, refugees are negotiating ink cartridges for their secondhand printers. Every day is filled with new discoveries and difficulties. Language is an enormous challenge: from being able to read notes from school, letters from health clinics and government agencies, to job applications and interviews. Finding a job to bring money into a household is an immediate need.

Refugees arriving in the U.S. are eligible for food stamps, Medicare and cash assistance. They are expected to become self-sufficient within three to eight months of arrival — a tall order. The cash assistance itself is inadequate: A family of four receives $621 per month to pay for rent that costs a minimum of $650 for a two-bedroom apartment, not to mention utilities, clothes and other necessities. Within five months, refugee families must start to repay the travel loan they received to fly to the U.S. (a family of four owes $5,300 for the one-way trip from Nepal).

After eight months, federal refugee benefits end, except for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) for families with children. I know many refugees who are unable to find a job within the eight months. When they lose benefits, they have to rely on Bhutanese friends and family in Oregon, who are already overburdened. For some, the pressure is too great. Suicide among refugees is a real and growing concern in the United States. Already, eight Bhutanese refugees have hung themselves in four states since 2009. Suicide by a refugee has an added poignancy: Refugees believe they are coming to start a new life, not to end it.

Although no suicide has occurred in Oregon, I have met several Bhutanese refugees here who have contemplated suicide due to their dire financial circumstances. Thankfully I was able to connect them to resources and counseling and tried to give them hope for the future.

bhutanese2.JPGView full sizeThe Oregonian/Torsten KjellstrandAfter hosting a community festival in October, members of the David Douglas High School Bhutanese students club — Kalpana Wagley (from left), Purna Adhikari, Maya Ghising and Hameda Dil Mohamed — gathered to write thank-you notes to all the people who helped them.

Even refugees who do find work must deal with discrimination and injustice. Many are hired for low pay, asked to work extra hours, and some are not paid for the work. They are vulnerable, because they are not fluent in English and do not know their rights. Earlier this year, several Bhutanese men working at a downtown Portland restaurant were cheated of their paychecks. It took two months for community leaders to persuade the restaurant owners to pay them.

Bhutanese refugees are very thankful to the U.S. government and to Oregonians for welcoming them to this community and providing hope and an opportunity for a new life. But we need more support to thrive here. Families are simply not prepared for the complexity of American life. We need longer individual and group orientations, more vocational training, and more civic engagement. Portland resettlement agencies need volunteers and mentors to help refugees with school registration, transportation, and orientation in Oregon and in American culture.

We also need the U.S. to pressure Bhutan to improve life for the 80,000 ethnic minorities still living in Bhutan and to take back the exiled refugees. Bhutanese refugees want to return to their home country. International law provides only three options as a solution: repatriation to the home country; integration into a host country; or resettlement in a third country, usually in the Western world. The first two options are not available for Bhutanese refugees at this time. Seventeen rounds of bilateral talks on repatriation between the Nepalese and Bhutanese governments have not yielded a resolution. Peaceful protests by refugees in Nepali camps for return to Bhutan have failed. The Indian army has forcibly returned refugees attempting an overland return to Bhutan. And the government of Nepal does not permit the second option, local integration, because that nation is poor and unable to provide for its own citizens.

So while third-country resettlement in places like Oregon, far from our country and culture, is not optimal, it is better than languishing in temporary camps without a clear or meaningful future. Even if it means an uncertain struggle against economic and emotional hardships.

Som Nath Subedi is a Bhutanese community member who lives in Southeast Portland. Reach him at som_subedi@yahoo.com 

 

© 2012 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.

Posted on June 14, 2012

 

Clues to cause of tire blow-out and rollover of 15-passenger van in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 18, 2011

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia sent us a copy of the crash report for the single vehicle crash involving the 15-passenger Chevrolet 3500 van, and the report confirms their spokeswoman’s earlier statement that a tire blow-out was the apparent cause of the crash.

There were 13 refugees injured and two killed (one man was ejected out the back door of the van and decapitated ; the other man killed was thrown to the rear cargo area and entrapped). Injuries included fractured ribs, severe internal injuries, severe head injuries, a severed right hand, and the front passenger’s left arm was severed below the elbow (emergency personnel extricated him due to entrapment). The youngest passenger, a 20-year-old male Sudanese refugee, suffered a broken jaw (the driver and 12 passengers were Nepali-Bhutanese refugees, and there were two African refugee passengers). All of the 15 people were traveling to their Perdue chicken-processing factory jobs in Perry, 106 miles south of their homes in Atlanta. The report says that an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) official claimed that World Relief supplied the refugees with the jobs. There is no mention of RRISA, as in media reports.

Several witnesses in vehicles traveling in the same direction heard a loud sound before the van went out of control — one described it as a “pow” and another described it as a “pop”. The vehicle swerved off I-75, crossed the median, and hit a guard rail support on the other side — causing it to flip over front-to-back, land upside down on the guard rail, then make a full sideways roll and landing upside down.

The crash report also gives clues about the cause of the left rear tire blow-out. Both of the front tires were in very good condition (“like new”), with 3/4 inch tread depth on each tire. The two rear tires, however — both Uniroyal Laredo LT245/75R16 with load range E — were not in very good condition, with “some dry rot present”. The right rear tire had about 1/4 inch tread depth and the tread was partially torn. The left rear tire, the tire that failed before the crash, lost its tread during the crash leaving only the cords and steel belts exposed. There was also a tear on the left rear tire that went from outer sidewall to inner sidewall. So, perhaps the left rear tire blew-out due to severe wear and/or dry rot, and not due to tire over-inflation or under-inflation as I earlier surmised.

Another issue, according to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is that these 15-passenger vans, when used as directed, with up to 15 passengers, are more likely to roll over, by 9-12 percent per passenger added, due to an increase in the height of the center of gravity. In other words, the purpose of the vehicle, to transport up to 15 passengers, is also the source of these vehicles’ risk. The higher the occupancy the higher the risk. I suspect, though, that fully loaded vehicles — with  tires that are not properly maintained and replaced when necessary – are much more likely to have a tire blow-out initiating the rollover. A driver inexperienced with handling a large passenger van, especially a new driver inexperienced with driving any vehicle, would no doubt also increase the rollover risk due to inexperience with handling (although a fully loaded 15-pnassenger van that experiences a tire blow-out at high-speed would, I suspect, be extremely difficult to control even for an experienced van driver).

Another van crash involving refugees in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 11, 2011

Just five days after I posted the story on a passenger van accident in Georgia involving refugees killed and injured there was yet another passenger van crash in Georgia involving refugees — on Wed. April 6, 2011. The Bhutan News Service reports that this time a Bhutanese refugee returning from a chicken processing plant in an automobile allegedly collided with a van carrying seven passengers while attempting to overtake the van. The van was also returning Bhutanese refugees to their homes in Atlanta after working at the chicken processing factory. The drive of the car is apparently missing.

A few resettled Bhutanese were injured when an overtaking car hit and veered off a van on Tuesday morning at 4:30 am local time. Of them, one is critical.

According to the report, Rohit Dhakal, 32, was seriously injured when a car driven by another resettled fellow of Beldangi-II allegedly collided with a van carrying seven passengers while overtaking…

…“He is critically injured and being treated in the hospital now,” Hemu told Bhutan News Service…

…The driver of the van, who received minor injuries, is reported to have told Hemu that the vehicle over-turned a number of times before its [tire] got blown off… Read more here

The Bhutan News Service has another update to that article.

The former Bhutanese refugee who met with a car accident recently in Atlanta, GA has been in coma for four days.

According to Narad Sharma, a close relative who has been taking care of the victim since he met with an accident, the victim has been undergoing medical treatment at Grady Health System in South-east Atlanta.

He underwent head surgery on the same day of accident, and has been scheduled for the next one tonight”, says Sharma adding the victim may have to undergo series of surgeries…the victim is out of danger but he may have brain haemorrhage that can have long term complications…

…Rohit met with an accident last Wednesday when he was returning from his work as the van driven by Amit Thapa, a fellow worker at the Chicken factory was overtaken by another speeding car. Read more here

Oddly, AccessNorthGA has an article from April 6th which reports that the crash occurred near Gainesville in northern Georgia, but that it happened after the van’s (a minivan) driver struck a curb, lost control, and then hit a tractor-trailer. That article lists a different first name for the van driver, although the same last name, and gives the accident time as 3:30am, though the Bhutan News Service said it occurred at 4:30am.

GAINESVILLE – At least one person was injured early Wednesday when a minivan and a tractor trailer collided on the southside of Gainesville.

Gainesville Police Officer Joe Britte said the accident happened when the driver of the minivan struck a curb as he tried to turn from Athens Highway onto the southbound Interstate 985 entrance ramp.

“It struck the curb then lost control of the vehicle and struck the tractor trailer,” he said.

“It struck the curb then lost control of the vehicle and struck the tractor trailer,” he said.

Britte said the driver of the minivan, 22-year-old Mahendra Thapa, was injured in the incident. He
said the driver of the tractor trailer, Grady Tritt, was not.

Britte said the accident, which occurred around 3:30a.m., is still under investigation.

Nepali-Bhutanese refugee killed at abortion clinic in Philadelphia

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 1, 2011

 Karnamaya Mongar with her husband, Ash — credit-AP

A reader wrote that I was an “idiot” for not posting about the barbaric conditions at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, where a Nepali-Bhutanese refugee died in 2009. The clinic’s Dr. Kermit Gosnell has also been charged with murdering seven infants with scissors. Initially I didn’t think this was directly related to refugee resettlement, but the latest article points out the lack of action by government oversight agencies, which is also one of the main problems we have in the refugee resettlement program.

An article in the New York Times details the failure of government officials to take any action after two deaths and more than a dozen malpractice cases at the abortion clinic. The state Health Department ignored the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee, with the department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defending the agency’s actions by stating bluntly, “People die.”…

PHILADELPHIA — For years, state health officials missed some unsettling patterns at the three-story brick abortion clinic on Lancaster Avenue.

It was always open late, way past the time the pizza place next door closed at midnight. The women who emerged from it — often poor blacks and Hispanics — appeared dazed and in pain, and sometimes left in ambulances. The doctor who ran the clinic, Kermit Gosnell, had been sued at least 15 times for malpractice. Two women died while under his care.

But the dangerous practices went unnoticed, except by the women who experienced them. They were discovered entirely by accident, during a prescription drug raid by federal agents last February.

The clinic — now closed, with dead plants in its windows and old mail on its front desk — stands as a grim reminder of how degrading it was for the women who went there and how long state officials ignored their complaints.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia district attorney, Seth Williams, indicted Dr. Gosnell on eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven infants and a Bhutanese refugee who died after a late-term abortion in 2009.

A grand jury report issued on the same day offered its own theory on why so little happened for so long.

We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color,” the report said, “and because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”

Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett, said Friday that the governor “was appalled at the inaction on the part of the Health Department and the Department of State,” the two agencies that were responsible for overseeing the clinic...

…Complaints against Dr. Gosnell date back to 1983, according to the grand jury report, but none moved state regulators to action. Some malpractice suits produced settlements that were paid by Dr. Gosnell’s insurance company, including nearly $1 million paid to the family of Semika Shaw, a 22-year-old mother of two who died from an infection in 2002 after an abortion at the clinic.

The report details a sweeping pattern of negligence, with no inspector stepping foot inside the clinic for more than 16 years. Even the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who died after a procedure in 2009, was ignored.

Janice Staloski, a Health Department official, declined to investigate the death, saying the department had no authority to do so, the report said. The department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defended the agency’s actions to the grand jury, stating bluntly, “People die.”… Read more here

Unfortunately, that sounds like the same type of attitude we see from government refugee resettlement oversight agencies all the time.

**UPDATE** Feb. 15, 2011, Pa. governor fires workers after abortion scandal

“Translation of faith”: converting Bhutanese refugees via English Bible lessons

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2011

This story just amazes me – an evangelical church in Abilene, Texas is converting Bhutanese refugees to Christianity by teaching them English using the Bible. Refugees who have been Hindu or Buddhist all their lives suddenly abandoning their faiths and converting to Christianity after a few of these “English lessons”. Of course, proselytization is supposedly forbidden in the refugee program, so why does the International Rescue Committee allow this? The Abilene Reporter News gives more details:

For more than 30 years, Pat Cranfill has lived, worked and worshipped in Abilene.

She is known by people closest to her as someone who loves to help and serve, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that she had an opportunity to put that servant attitude to work on an international mission field right here in Abilene.

Cranfill, a member of the congregation at Southern Hills Church of Christ, answered the call to her new “mission” field by initially helping some young ladies — refugees from Bhutan — find their way around Abilene.

That offer of help has grown into her participation in a program at Southern Hills that teaches English to refugees through Bible stories…

…According to Phil Ware, Minister of The Word at Southern Hills, when the International Rescue Committee began bringing refugees here a few years ago, it was clear that his church could step up and model Jesus to them…

…Using tools and programs like Let’s Start Talking, FriendSpeak, and the World English Institute, more than 50 Southern Hills members are engaged in teaching English to these new Abilenians.

“All the English is taught by reading passages of Scripture from the easy-to-read version of the Bible, which has been used internationally,” said Ware. “The lessons are simple, less colloquial, and designed best for someone with a very limited English vocabulary.”…

…”It is that the Bible is the message, and you are the example. You are not there as a teacher; you are there as a friend”

DeLynda Gray, LST/FriendSpeak coordinator for Southern Hills, said she has seen some very rewarding things come out of using the Bible to help the refugees learn English.

“When you have a different world view than we do the journey through the Bible’s parables and lessons can seem figurative,” she said. “What continues to amaze me is their devotion and excitement to learn. They are so thirsty for the Bible; they really want to go more deeply.”

Gray said several of the refugees have made professions of faith and been baptized into the Christian faith.

“That is pretty amazing in a culture that claims thousands of gods,” she said. “For them to claim the one, true God, and follow Jesus is wonderful.”

Such was the case for 31-year-old Moti Lamagdey and his 27-year-old wife, Tila, both Bhutanese refugees.

“I made a decision to follow the Christian faith and was baptized with Tila on December 12, 2010,” said Lamagedy. “I’m very proud of the decision, and God has blessed us both. I learned so much from the Bible classes at Southern Hills, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to be a follower of Jesus.”

Cranfill said for many of the refugees, once they’re shown enough concrete facts revealed in the Bible, it doesn’t take them very long to get it.

“When they get it, you can see a light go on in their eyes it’s really amazing,” she added.

Gray added that she has seen these English classes as a powerful vehicle for Southern Hills members — who have been tentative about evangelism — to feel confident about evangelism.

“We are God’s ‘community front porch’ this is where the real worship is done,” said Ware. “Lives are changed person to person the same way Jesus did it. Christian life is about touching people walking alongside each other, helping each other become who we say we worship.”

“It takes very little to share the Gospel with them,” Cranfill said. “If more people were willing, we would have Bible studies going day and night wouldn’t that be great to know we were using God’s mission field for that purpose?” Read more here

A Bronx Tale

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 1, 2011

Some of the last of the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees resettled to the Bronx by the IRC are now out-migrating. An article in the New York Times in September 2009 reported that the IRC had placed the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in a Bronx apartment building with a weed-choked front courtyard and grimy staircases (here). The refugees’apartments were only furnished with a couple of bureaus and several beds that doubled as couches, and little else The IRC declined an interview for the documentary The Refugee Syndrome about these refugees. The current New York Times article tells more.

For two years, a five-story walk-up apartment building in the Bronx has served as a small beachhead for a new immigrant community: refugee families from the South Asian nation of Bhutan. From this new home on University Avenue, where they were placed by a resettlement agency, the families have made their first, tentative steps in an unfamiliar culture and language.

But now they are on the move again. In the year since The New York Times profiled the building and the eight Bhutanese families who were living there, four of the families have left for other states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont and North Carolina — and most members of a fifth have moved to Albany…

…Yet the experiences of the families on University Avenue also say something about New York. Often portrayed as an ideal spot for new immigrants, with its array of public services and advocacy groups and its fertile mix of ethnicities, the city may not necessarily have all that a newcomer needs to build a future. Indeed, a trove of census data released in December shows how immigrants to America in the last decade have spread out from the big cities where they have traditionally clustered, or bypassed them altogether.

This is especially true for new immigrant populations like the Bhutanese, who, numbering more than 250 since 2008, have arrived in New York in small numbers and lack established social networks to turn to for support. Some are improvising, creating those communities elsewhere — in smaller, less expensive cities where relatives have already been resettled.

Those who have left the Bronx building said they were driven out of the city mainly by the high cost of living, particularly rent.

During his year in New York City, in the throes of the economic downturn, Mr. Mishra and his two sisters struggled to find jobs and were barely able to cover basic expenses, including the $975 monthly rent for their one-bedroom apartment. While new refugees have immediate access to financial support and other services from government and private sources, that aid often begins to dissipate after several months…

…Officials at the International Rescue Committee, the resettlement program based in New York that brought the Bhutanese to University Avenue, acknowledged the difficulties that the city posed for many refugees. While New York offers extraordinary advantages, they said, including an extensive public transportation system and a network of organizations accustomed to working with immigrants, it could also be costly and, for some, emotionally overwhelming…

…Abhi Siwakoti, another Bhutanese refugee, decided to leave New York City after trying for months to cover his family’s expenses, including the $1,200 rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the University Avenue building… Read more here

The question that remains however is why the IRC placed these refugees in the Bronx to begin with. The rents were sky-high before the refugees arrived. Crime was rampant. Although the IRC refers to the area’s extensive public transportation system, refugees report never having been to Manhattan. Burmese refugee clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York reported that they had never been to the Statue of Liberty.

Bhutanese refugees in Oregon – cheated out of wages, some suicidal, yet still with hope and gratitude

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2010

The author of this Op-ed, Som N. Subedi, about Bhutanese refugees in Oregon sent us the link to the article. Read the OregonLivearticle for the full story. Below is an excerpt.

I am a refugee from Bhutan. In the early days after my arrival to Portland, I would call friends and family in the refugee camps in Nepal, telling them the United States is close to heaven and they should try to come as soon as possible.

Now, nearly two years later, I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my “heaven.” Some say they would return, if it were possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that “the
American dream” is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal…

…The Bhutanese, the newest refugee community in Oregon, began arriving in early 2008. More than 33,000 now live in the United States — including more than 400 in the Portland metro area — as part of a State Department resettlement program. Another 30,000 are expected to arrive in the U.S. over the next three years — destined to face an economic crisis that adds to the challenges of their integration…

…When the United States opened its door to refugees from Bhutan, we jumped at the opportunity. But a three-day orientation overseas did not prepare us for life in America. We were told how to use a toilet or fasten a seatbelt, but nothing about how to deal with a lack of employment opportunities. Bhutanese refugees suffer intense culture shock when they arrive in the U.S. Separation from family and from everything familiar is overwhelming, as is the trauma of war and refugee camp life…

For some, the pressure is too great. Suicide among refugees is a real and growing concern in the United States. Already, eight Bhutanese refugees have hung themselves in four states since 2009. Suicide by a refugee has an added poignancy: Refugees believe they are coming to start a new life, not to end it.

Although no suicide has occurred in Oregon, I have met several Bhutanese refugees here who have contemplated suicide due to their dire financial circumstances. Thankfully I was able to connect them to resources and counseling and tried to give them hope for the future.

Even refugees who do find work must deal with discrimination and injustice. Many are hired for low pay, asked to work extra hours, and some are not paid for the work. They are vulnerable, because they are not fluent in English and do not know their rights. Earlier this year, several Bhutanese men working at a downtown Portland restaurant were cheated of their paychecks. It took two months for community leaders to persuade the restaurant owners to pay them.

Bhutanese refugees are very thankful to the U.S. government and to Oregonians for welcoming them to this community and providing hope and an opportunity for a new life. But we need more support to thrive here. Families are simply not prepared for the complexity of American life. We need longer individual and group orientations, more vocational training, and more civic engagement. Portland resettlement agencies need volunteers and mentors to help refugees with school registration, transportation, and orientation in Oregon and in American culture… Read more here

Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Face Unemployment, Eviction and Medical Bills

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 28, 2010

The number of Bhutanese refugees who have departed Nepal for the United States will reach 30,000 sometime in the first week of September, according the US embassy in Kathmandu. But success in the U.S. for the Nepali Bhutanese sometimes seem elusive. According to an article in Fargo Forum newspaper these refugees are grappling with the specter of unemployment, eviction and medical bills. Although North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at least ten refugee families, just among the Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in Fargo, have faced eviction notices.

…Community leaders say about 20 percent of Bhutanese of working age in town are unemployed. The newcomers are eager for work, but in an already tough job market, their candidacies can run into extra pitfalls…

…Even some of the Bhutanese who lined up jobs can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck….

…at least 10 families…have received eviction notices. With seven of them to his name, one [Bhutanese refugee] jokes, is “addicted to (the) eviction notice.”…

…Chilling stories about outsized medical bills have spread through the community. A retinal detachment surgery Kashi’s wife needed in the Twin Cities, for instance, set the family back about $12,000, which he’s vowed to pay off gradually.

If we are sick, we don’t go to the hospital – this is our scary part,” says [one Bhutanese refugee]…

Pierre Atilio, until recently a longtime immigrant advocate at Cultural Diversity Resources in Moorhead, says refugees across the board are grappling with economic survival.

In December, he accompanied an Iraqi widow to the Salvation Army. She resettled in the area with her teenage daughter and son in his 20s in 2008. Of the trio, she alone had lined up a job, four months after arriving here: a $7.50 an hour housekeeping gig.

It was a Friday; save for the Salvation Army intervention, she would have been evicted that Sunday.

You are confronted with poor people with fear in their eyes,” Atilio says. “And they are in America, the most powerful country in the world.”

The new-American services team at LSS says 2008 and early 2009 was a rough stretch for refugees. New arrivals weren’t landing jobs, and some who came earlier saw their hours or positions cut…

…And the recent crop of refugees has dodged actual evictions, a fact LSS is proud of, says [LSS refugee services director] Sinisa Milovanovic: “Within a year to a year and a half, we don’t see people contacting us anymore.”  Read more here

I’m not sure I understand why LSSND is proud that ten of the Bhutanese refugee families have faced eviction notices when North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and many more jobs than any other state. Yet, as I’ve found, in the refugee resettlement culture everything seems to be relative. If they have “less” evictions among their refugee clients they feel proud. But in Fargo? The place has cheap rents, low cost-of-living, and relatively plentiful jobs compared to any other place in the nation.

Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Cheated Out of Wages

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 27, 2010

A group of Nepali-Bhutanese refugees in Fargo who were cheated out of their wages have won a complaint they placed with the North Dakota Department of Labor, according to an article in Fargo’s Forum newspaper.

A group of young Bhutanese refugees took their case all the way to the North Dakota Department of Labor this summer – and won.

The department recently found in favor of four workers who say they were paid a fraction of what they earned working for a Fargo business called the Happy Norwegian Cleaning Crew.

The owner, Kristi Ness, approached (a Fargo immigrant assistance group] and…said she could use workers for a new business.

The Happy Norwegian Cleaning Crew had landed a contract to clean the bakery at [a local grocery store] in south Fargo. Tika Lamitarey and three other Bhutanese jumped at the opportunity.

Lamitarey says it wasn’t until three months and, in his case, 225 hours of work later, that the workers got their first paychecks. His was for $700, some $1,100 less than what his time sheets suggest he was owed…He and the other workers quit in June [then] they put together wage claims with the Labor Department.

I was so optimistic when I first came to America,” Lamitarey wrote to Kathy Kulesa at the department, “but nowadays my optimism is transferred into an oasis of pessimism and failure.”

Kulesa said Ness did not respond to two letters asking for a response. Last month, the department ruled in favor of the workers and referred the case to the state’s attorney general for collection.

…“She used us, thinking we are new American and we can’t do anything,” he says… Read more here

Apparently the refugees resettlement agency Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) then got involved and tried to bring the two parties together for negotiation.

…After the determination, Ness sent a letter to the department stating she had tried to pay the workers during an August meeting at Fargo’s Lutheran Social Services. Lamitarey, a student at North Dakota State University, said he and his friends left the meeting when Ness started negotiating about the amounts…

We spoke to the Bhutanese refugee Tika Lamitarey and asked who had placed in the job. He said that an immigrant assistance organization had referred him to the job six months after his arrival. We asked if LSSND had done anything to help him find a job before that and he said that they had only once helped him apply for a job, at a local hospital. Of course that might explain why he was still unemployed and desperate for a job six months after his arrival.

This phenomena of groups of refugees being cheated out of wages is nothing new to me. I assisted a group of Lost Boys of Sudan refugees in Chicago when a company that handled security at O’Hare International Airport cheated them out of their wages as well. People target refugees for this abuse because they deem the refugees as vulnerable and not able to fight back as

Long Wait for Refugee Health Care in City of Brotherly Love

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 22, 2010

An article in WHYY News and Information gives more information about the welcome that newly arrived refugees face in Philadelphia. Some refugees have waited as long as three months just for health screening.

The Philadelphia region is seeing a new influx of political refugees from the South Asian nation of Bhutan. Like other refugees, they are entitled to eight months of medical coverage. But providing that care is a challenge.

 

Jefferson Family Medicine dedicates Wednesday afternoons to refugees. Nearly three years ago, when the clinic opened, many of the refugees came from Myanmar, then a few Iraqis, some Eritreans. Now, it’s the ethnic Nepalis from Bhutan. Clinic director Dr. Marc Altshuler says one of the first steps is to make sure everyone has had their shots.

Altshuler: The kids cannot go to school without vaccines, and if the kids don’t go to school the parents can’t go out and get a job.

 

The Nationalities Service Center, a resettlement agency, helped launch the Jefferson clinic. Now, demand for the clinic’s services has the agency looking for other providers capable of the same type of one-stop care…

…Newly arrived refugees should have an initial health screen within 30 days, but it took more than three monthsfor Bagi Adhikari and her adult son Kamal to get in to see Dr. Packer… here

So a question becomes why continue to place more new refugees in Philadelphia if health screenings are delayed so dangerously long? It’s not like the city is a particularly safe place for the refugees’ children, here. Of course resettlement agencies such as theNationalities Service Center isn’t going to advertise to the State Department that their area has late health screenings and dangerous schools. That will have to wait until the State Department does one of its once-in-a-decade inspections. Even then, the State Dept. will simply note the problems and suggest that the Center make some attempt to correct it. In the meantime years have passed in which refugees have gone months at a time without medical care, and have also been harassed, attacked, and assaulted on the streets and in the schools. That’s how our refugee resettlement program operates.

The refugees can have serious health problems while they sit for months without medical care. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a common ailment.

…The ailments differ with each refugee group but latent tuberculosis, malnutrition and malaria are common. When the Adhikaris arrived last winter, both were a little underweight…

Altshuler: We spend time asking ‘Why did they become refugees?’ cause that can help us figure out … Were they exposed? Were they beaten? But the bigger picture is, are they sometimes at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder because of what they went through? …

…Altshuler: We see significant mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder. We’ve been trying to collect a lot of data on the refugees that we’ve been seeing, and I think our rates of PTSD are probably two to three times higher than the national rate.

All are adjusting to a new city and culture; Altschuler says some also have stubborn, decades-old hurts that resurface once they’re safe…

…The Nationalities Services Center recently hosted a training session for health providers on the medical and mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

It seems as though the main reason the US refugee resettlement program resettled refugees to Philadelphia is because a national volag, the USCRI, happens to have an office there – Nationalities Service Center. Is that really a “rational plan for resettlement”? That’s what the volags have to prove to the State Department each year in their annual report (see Guidelines for Participants).

Strategy for Site Selection

Headquarters should have in place a coherent strategy for selecting resettlement sites and placement of individual refugee cases. That strategy should show evidence of adaptability to new circumstances, e.g., influx of new ethnic groups, welfare or economic changes in any given location. Such strategy should also provide adequate justification for continued use of a site with poor employment outcomes.

But the USCRI essentially just recommends all the places where it already has affiliate offices as good refugee resettlement sites. Therefore, long after South Philly is no longer a rational place to resettle refugees, the State Department continues to let its contractor (USCRI) place refugees there.

Refugee Children Get Harassment and Assault Orientation at South Philly School

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 21, 2010

New refugee students in South Philadelphia are learning that their new school may be much more dangerous for them than the refugee camps they came from. On December 3rd students at South Philadelphia High attacked 30 Asian students, mostly refugees. The violence sent seven Asian students to hospitals, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Many Asian students who walk into South Philadelphia High on Tuesday morning will be carrying something besides books.

In pockets and purses, they’ll tote a pamphlet called “Staying Safe.” It was given to them by community leaders who ran a special orientation aimed at teaching the students an important lesson: what to do if they’re attacked at school.

Knowing how to report harassment or assault is a skill most would prefer not to need. But it’s the reality of life at the school, where 30 Asians were attacked by groups of mostly African American students Dec. 3.

The violence sent seven Asians to hospitals and led about 50 to stage a weeklong boycott… here

A community leader told the students that she doesn’t know if changes will do anything to make them safer, in spite of the school being outfitted with extensive new security and programming.

…Last week, school administrators held new-student orientation, a day complete with cheerleaders in uniform and volleyball-team hopefuls knocking a ball around the gym.

The Asian session was a study in contrast. At FACTS charter school in Chinatown, three dozen students from Myanmar, China, Nepal, Vietnam, and elsewhere gathered to listen and talk.

“You guys are walking into the continuing story,” Nancy Nguyen, head of the local chapter of Boat People SOS, told the students. “We don’t know if the school is better. There are a lot of changes, but we don’t know if it’s better.”

The changes include security cameras and programming additions such as an Asian arts initiative and an in-school center for immigrants. A new antiharassment policy is in the works. The Justice Department, which recently informed the district it found merit to the Asian students’ civil-rights complaint, could impose more change.

At FACTS, organizers explained what harassment looks and sounds like, a raw introduction to students new to American culture and schools. Harassment, students heard, can be based on the place of your birth, the accent of your speech, or the shape of your eyes.

The instruction cut close to the bone, particularly when the leaders distributed a list of racial slurs and told the students: It’s wrong. And you need to know that slurs can escalate quickly and violently.

That’s common knowledge to children raised in America. But immigrants can be too limited in English to recognize racist language – and the danger it may portend.

Most of the students were heading into ninth grade at the school, which is 18 percent Asian and 70 percent African American. Some were hearing for the first time that Asians could be targets.

“If they come to beat us up, I’ll just go to the principal,” said Ghanashyam Gautam, 14, who emigrated from Nepal two years ago…

…The training program broke into subgroups. In one, a dozen students from Nepal squeezed around a table, all eyes focused on Nguyen, the Boat People SOS leader.

“I want to let you know what happened,” she began, telling the story of Dec. 3, ending with how Asian students stayed out of school…

…A discussion ensued in Nepalese. One boy wanted to know, if someone punches him, what should he do? Run away?

The first thing, Nguyen answered, is to get to a safe place. Write down everything that happened. And call one of the Asian leaders.

“It’s important for you guys to let us know if something happens,” Nguyen said…

At times, the students’ moods turned somber, as if they were asking themselves: What am I getting into at the school?

Again, we see the refugee resettlement program resettling refugees into urban areas that are obviously not safe for them or their children. Their ability to stay safe in these environments is much less than the average American’s due to newness to the communities, language barriers, lack of knowledge of rules, etc. Many of these refugees are already suffering from stress-related mental illnesses such as PTSD due to the conditions that originally brought them to refugee camps. If seven students hospitalized for injuries in one day, or a 15-year-old refugee boy murdered in a St. Louis ghetto, isn’t enough to get bureaucrats to reconsider things, what would it take to change their minds?

 

Wherever we go fate accompanies.

Posted on June 14, 2012

Filed under: Bhutanese Refugees by Editor —

July 2, 2011

By PuranaGhare

“When I was told to get resettled in to USA, I was told that all my worries will be deleted, I will have better health Care facilities, and I can enjoy the full fledged human rights. I didn’t think more to opt for resettlement when I heard that I will be relieved of refugee tag that I have been tied with for decades. When I get resettled, those entire magic spell didn’t come with me to USA, what came with me was just my old fate. I didn’t get treatment to my health problems” Ms. Khatiwoda who is a Resettled refugee from Sanischare Refugee camp in Morang Nepal into Kansas City Kansas talked with the writer. The writer is now confused, why these refugee folks are resettled into USA, when they are complaining that the life is more complex than in the refugee camps in Nepal?

When the rumor came in 2006 that the USA gonna resettle around sixty thousands Bhutanese Refugees in to United States of America from the refugees camps in Eastern Nepal. It was debated for and against by Bhutanese Refugees in the Camps. Many opined that USA by itself is ‘ U Start Again’ so all who will resettle will have a new beginning of life. Other opined that those who get resettled into USA will become a bonded labor in the factory despite their ability and educations. I was wondered at that time, what frame of reference enabled the refugees to argue with such perceptions?

Refugees from Bhutan have been resettling in to almost all the states of USA. There are around 300 refugees resettled in Kansas by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Catholic Charities who resettles Bhutanese has the provision of three months care under the plan of early self sufficiency. Refugees on arrival will get good care under the coordination of Kansas Bhutanese Community and Catholic Charities for the defined period of Time. The activists of the Kansas Bhutanese Community work extra hours to help the newly arrived fellows from Nepal in all the cited areas. Once they inhabit in the new land, refugees will have new hopes as predicted while in the refugee camps. They will have food stamps with Medicaid provided, health screened, necessary help somehow will be provided, but after four months of their arrival they start to give the opinion that it is a big blunder to get resettled.

Catholic Charities works very hard to meet the necessary requirements of this folks form Bhutan. They help to apply for Social Security Card, Employment authorization and other necessary documentations so as to ensure that refugees will have no worries of locating their identities later. After that, the refugees will be compelled to go to the job to make their living. Catholic Charities work hard and refugees get jobs basically in Triumph Food in Missouri and Fed Ex in Olathe. Once they get job, they are expected to make their life by their own.

Now is a good time to make some research about the Bhutanese Refugees resettled in Kansas. Let me talk a bit about the areas which need real attention with careful concentration, otherwise resettled refugees will become burden to the Government departments, the other communities in the localities, and concerned agencies about the refugee folks.

Within a month or a two, refugees are sent to work by the agency but they are never prepared to go to the job. Why? The main reason is they are not habituated with the environment in multiple senses. They need time to understand the traffic, legal systems, community patterns, system of governance, cultural diversities, human lifestyles and other many many concerns they need to focus. Are refugees who are resettled from the camps capable to do all this things within a month?

We know that the Kansas lifestyle is quite sophisticated like in almost all states in America. Learning about the local life style takes months. Refugee folks who are uneducated need years to learn about it. Around 50 % of the refugees are illiterate in English. 25% are students currently going to school, and and remaining 25 % are a bit literate. Is there any program with the Unified government of Kansas City and Wyandotte county, State government of Kansas or Federal Government to address the basic requirements of the Bhutanese refugees in the state?

The refugees have their own religions, cultures and they have their own conservative, traditional and rural frame of references for life. Is the Kansas state government giving some acceptances to these peculiarities that the refugees have brought safe despite challenges up to USA, a heterogeneous world? The Bhutanese individuals evicted out from Bhutan have suffered too much in Bhutan; their life in the refugee camps was more vigorous than the one in Bhutan. Are they liberated now in Kansas from the grip of pains, pathos, agonies and agoraphobias? This is a big concern to be addressed for the sake of the refugee and their future? If the state considers them to be just the immigrants, this will go in vain. At present, 90% of the refugees don’t have their family physician, 50 % of them don’t know how to make their medical appointment because they don’t speak English. At this time of need the state government has not thought of keeping a Community specialist for this community. So, how can we consider that the refugees are resettled with the hope for new life?

When the refuges go to Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS), no interpreter service is provided, the scenario in the Social Security Offices is the same. The biggest problem is that the majority of Bhutanese refugees don’t know how to do the paper works for SRS and other government departments so as to get benefits. Almost 99 % percent of the refugees don’t know how to apply for the Green Card because the application process involved good ability in English and the state law. Don’t we need some community specialists to support this community? Isn’t this a right time to address this concern? Why are the concerned stakeholders ignorant about this deal?

If Obama is not restoring the one time told English Pigs by the ex-prime minister Pushpakamal Dahal Prachanda of Nepal in to American piggeries, the Bhutanese refugees should be given some encouragements to skill oriented training before they are enchained by the knot of jobs. Some privileges should be given to the refugee students who are inneed of support to go to the college and university.

Last week, the US ambassador to Nepal said in a press meet in Kathmandu, that US is preparing to facilitate job oriented skill training to around 1100 Nepalese Youths in the Terai districts of Nepal. If US can do that why is it not doing some merciful considerations to the Bhutanese resettled folks? At least six months of English classes, Driving training, Interpreter Service, and some community Specialists are very much necessary for the Bhutanese resettlers so as to be prepared for the jobs and to secure their future. Even KU Med, where around 300 Bhutanese visit regularly, has only contract interpreters, which has barred providers from addressing the health issues of the refugee resettlers. Can’t KU Med hire a couple of full time interpreters to facilitate better health services?

The symptoms of frustrations, bipolar mental disorder state, and anxiety trodden disappointments have started to be seen in the community. Aged people are restricted indoors, are they pet animals to be confined indoors? Inability to practice their culture, no access to religious practices, community sickness due to indoor confinement etc. have produced a very serious situation in the refugee community in Kansas inneed of an immediate address.

If the state doesn’t bring any effective programs to support this community, the Bhutanese folks will have their degraded life further deteriorated in the future. Day by day, increasing number of refugees have been getting resettled, does the state want them to express their distressful opinion ‘wherever we go, our fate accompanied us’.

Source:Puranaghar

http://refugeesvoice.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/wherever-we-go-fate-accompanies/

Posted on June 14, 2012

S TRANDBERG , D. (A UGUST 20, 2009) “S UMMER CAMP NEW EXPERIENCE FOR NEW C ANADIANS ” T HE T RI -C ITY N EWS .
C OQUITLAM , BC.
S UMMER CAMP NEW EXPERIENCE FOR NEW C ANADIANS
A summer camp at Miller Park community school in Coquitlam is providing a group of young
immigrants with their fi rst experience of life in Canada.
So far, so good.
The Tri-City News met up with Prakesh Kattel, 14, and his sister Menuka,11, two recent arrivals from
a refugee camp in eastern Nepal. The two moved to Coquitlam with their family a few weeks ago to
start a new life.
On Friday, Prakesh and Menuka got a lesson in civic government when they visited Coquitlam
city hall with 20 other young people who are participating in a summer camp run by the Immigrant
Services Society of BC. in partnership with School District 43.
The camp runs all summer and gives students who are new to Canada a chance to improve their
English and math skills, play sports, do art and try out Canadian pastimes such as swimming and
skating. The youngsters also got to visit the Vancouver Aquarium, which was a big hit.
Prakesh and Menuka said they enjoyed skating, too, even though they both fell a couple of times.
Both speak some English and aren’t too shy talk to the media. Their ability to converse should make
it easier to go to school next month. Menuka said she has learned more English in the last few weeks
at the Miller Park camp than all the years studying at school in Nepal. She’s entering Grade 6 at
Como Lake middle school while Prakesh will be a student at Centennial secondary.
They’ve found it easy to adjust, thanks to the summer camp. “In summer camp, I have made a lot of
friends,” said Prakesh, with Menuka echoing the sentiment and naming several of her new friends.
The summer camp is for new Canadians, many of them refugees, who are between the ages of
10 and 17. As many as fi ve different languages are spoken by children in the class and the kids
come from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Korea, Russia, the
Ukraine and the Philippines.
The Tri-Cities are home to increasing numbers of government assistant refugees (GAR) who are
being settled here in low-cost housing. But the Kattels are pioneers of a sort, the fi rst of about 900
Bhutanese refugees who are expected to settle in Coquitlam over the next three years.
Approximately 150 Bhutanese refugees are expected to move into the community by Christmas. The
Nepalese-speaking Bhutanese have been living in refugee camps since the mid 1990s because of a
policy of de-nationalization in southern Bhutan.
The Kattels — besides Prakesh and Menuka, there are brother, Ganesh, their parents and
grandmother — are the third Bhutanese family to arrive in B.C. Many of their friends went to other
cities, mostly in the U.S. They will be supported by the Canadian government for one year.
Prakesh said the family decided to accept an invitation from the Canadian government to move
to Coquitlam so he and his siblings could get a good education. He wants to be an engineer in
computer science and Menuka wants to be a nurse.
They like Coquitlam because it has less pollution then Birtmod, the city nearest the camp where their
family has lived for the last 20 years, and because there are more traffi c lights and rules for drivers.
“I was afraid to cross the street,” Menuka said of Nepal.
Except for the cold, the two say they like their new country, especially the summer camp, which is
providing them with a lot of new experiences.
********
Only a few of the estimated 150 Bhutanese refugees who were expected to arrive in the Tri-Cities 64 MBC: ‘Operation Swaagatem’
this year have shown up, according to the director of the agency that will help them settle.
Immigrant Services Society director Chris Friesen said in an email he doesn’t know the reason for the
delay but the agency is prepared to fi nd homes for those who arrive and help them get settled.
An interpreter who speaks Nepalese has been hired to work with the newcomers and three
Bhutanese refugee children are attending a summer camp to improve their English and upgrade their
math.
School District 43 assistant superintendent Sylvia Russell said
she’s not concerned about the delay and the district will be
able to cope with the Bhutanese students when they arrive,
even if they all arrive in a bunch. Russell said refugees tend to
arrive throughout the year and the province has been providing
funding for those who enrol mid-year.
The district is also looking at ways to streamline the process
of registering students in school and is looking at models used
in other districts. “We’re not rushing into this, it needs to be
thoughtfully done,” Russell said.
The district’s international education department also helps
receive students who are new to the country and will be training
school secretaries this month so they can better assist the
families.
********
A summer camp for students new to Canada is helping ease the
back-to-school jitters for 21 children.
Naomi Staddon, project co-ordinator for a summer camp run
by the Immigrant Services Society of BC for School District
43, said the 10- to 17-year old students who come to the daily
program at Miller Park community school are improving their English, honing their math skills and,
most importantly, making friends.
On the day The Tri-City News visited, several students arrived half an hour early for the program,
their backpacks slung over their shoulders, and one boy was singing as he walked through the
parking lot.
“We registered students on a Monday and Tuesday; by Wednesday morning, we saw friendships
and, by Thursday, the group had formed,” Staddon said. “The kids just climbed over the language
differences.”
Students attending the camp come from all over the world — South and Central America, Russia, the
Ukraine, the Philippines and Nepal — and many are refugees. All have arrived in Canada within the
last two months.
In addition to working on their academic skills, the students do art, play sports, work on the computer
and go on fi eld trips, visiting Coquitlam city hall, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Coquitlam’s City
Centre Aquatic Complex and the skating rink.
“We have the academic goal to try to help them a bit with English vocabulary and math because we
know a lot of the refugee kids, if they’ve been held back in school, they may be several thousand
words in vocabulary [behind], even though they are in in grade school.”
But at the same time, the youth are making valuable connections with other kids, which will help them
make the transition to school when it starts in less than three weeks. They’re also working on a mural
about their experiences moving to Canada, which will be presented as a gift to Coquitlam school
district.
The program ends when school starts but participants will get together once more at the end of

Children from Bhutan. Colleen
Flanagan/The Tri-City NewsSeptember so ISS can see if the program helped the transition to school — and so the leave-taking
isn’t so sad, said Staddon, noting, “We’ve gotten very fond of them.”
If the program is successful, it may run again next year.
The Tri-Cities is increasingly home to refugee families. According to ISS statistics, 20% of
government-assisted refugees are now coming to the region because of the availability of low-cost
housing. As of April, 45 refugees had arrived. The top fi ve source countries are Iran, Myanmar, Iraq,
Somalia and Afghanistan.
dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

B.C. opens the door to Bhutan refugees

Posted on June 14, 2012

B.C. opens the door to Bhutan refugees

A mother and her two adult children are quietly making history in British Columbia.

BY THE VANCOUVER SUNMARCH 28, 2009

A mother and her two adult children are quietly making history in British Columbia.

Kharcila Kafley, 65, son Bholanath and daughter Bishnumaya, both in their 20s, arrived in Vancouver last week amid little fanfare to become the first Bhutanese refugee family to call the region home.

They are the vanguard of an estimated 5,000 newcomers destined for Canada from the South Asian kingdom, best known for measuring its residents’ quality of life in terms of Gross National Happiness. Of those, about 900 people, or 40 families, will settle in British Columbia.

Ethnically Nepalese from southern Bhutan, the families have been living in refugee camps in neighbouring Nepal for the past 17 years after cultural and political clashes with the government in Bhutan rendered more than 100,000 people stateless.

Through a Nepali-speaking interpreter, Kharcila Kafley said she reluctantly fled to the camps with 10 of her 12 children after losing her family’s fertile farmland in the early 1990s.

She was told she would be killed if she did not sign over the property and cattle to the government, she said.

Kafley said she took part in several protests in the years following her eviction, including participating in a hunger strike with other displaced Bhutanese residents. Her hope always was to to return to her village, she said. But over the years, that hope has faded.

Now, she said, “there is no way back home.”

When she learned through the United Nations about the possibility of resettling in Canada, Kafley said she and her family — which now includes several grandchildren — jumped at the chance. Kafley was fast-tracked to her new home because of her daughter’s medical needs, while the rest of the family is scheduled to arrive in the coming months, or possibly years.

The trio touched down in Vancouver last week, and admit they have much to learn about their new home.

“What can I say, I am satisfied so far,” said an exhausted Kafley only hours after settling in to temporary housing provided by Immigrant Services Society of B.C. in downtown Vancouver.

“I am proud to come here. My only regret is that I cannot share my happiness because of the language,” she said.

The family’s low-key arrival marks the first time in years B.C. has welcomed a brand-new cultural and ethnic community within its borders, according to Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with ISS.

That means there is no pre-existing social network — no family or friends — to help the newcomers adjust to unfamiliar surroundings, Friesen said.

“That is highly unique compared to other refugee populations,” he said.

Plans have begun to settle the refugees in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.

As government-sponsored refugees, each family or individual is required to begin repaying within one year the transportation loans granted for their travel to Canada. In the meantime, the families are given federal support at a rate similar to provincial welfare.

Up to 40 per cent of the Bhutanese refugees are school-aged children. Friesen said many of the children already speak English, and most have attended schools in the refugee camps. Their parents and grandparents, meanwhile, will be offered English-language classes as well as vocational and skill-based training to help them gain employment.

Friesen said Metro Vancouver’s Nepalese community is welcoming the newcomers, but many more volunteers are needed to help the families settle in.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Bhutanese refugees should contact ISS at 604-684-7498.

“These people have been waiting 17 years to rebuild their lives,” Friesen said.

dahansen@vancouversun.com

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Bhutan refugees subject to religious conversion –

Posted on June 11, 2012
 

January 10, 2012

Now, the Bhutan refugees, in thousands of numbers, resettled in many countries, including Canada, Nepal, America etc…, are belligerently subjected to religious conversion by various Christian groups in addition to their pathetic life sans basic rights

by Dipin Damodharan

In today’s world, the definition of human rights has a scrupulous distorted character-here rights are confined to some sects or religions.
When Kashmiri Pandits had been wiped out by the terrorists tutored by Pakistan in the early 1990s, there were no rights activists to condemn it. When the Kashmiri Pandits women were brutally raped and mercilessly killed by the Islamic fanatics, there were no rights advocates to heave voice for them…The same is in the case with Bhutan refugees also.
The story has been hidden in the shades of history for so many years and the hapless population, – including Lhotshampas, Buddhists, Hindus etc-haven’t got help from any corner or they have no one to bank on for assistance except a few organizations.
Now, the Bhutan refugees, in thousands of numbers, resettled in many countries, including Canada, Nepal, America etc…, are belligerently subjected to religious conversion by various Christian groups in addition to their pathetic life sans basic rights. .
The Bhutanese refugees living in many countries are feared of losing their own beliefs and rituals in alien lands. They are confused, whether to live or die in this world which they think preserved for someone.
 
“In Canada, there are around 3000 Bhutan refugees, but many of them are forcibly converted to Christianity by certain groups within weeks of their arrival,” a social activist based in Canada tells Views Post. He also adds that many Indian groups are trying their best to give them confidence.
The expulsion
To dig out this tragic story of Bhutan refugees, we have to go back to the political psyche of Bhutan.  The country, which is situated in the midst of rising powers India and China, has a culture rooted in Buddhism.
The nation has now generated one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world in proportion to its population. The progressive world may not digest the fact that over one sixth of Bhutan’s people have sought asylum in different countries including Nepal and India, following the planned expulsion by the inhuman Bhutanese regime.
The Lhotshampas people are supposed to be the biggest victims of this expulsion. The people of Nepali origin who began to settle in the south of the country in the late 19th century are called the Lhotshampa.
But for the Bhutanese regime, that Nepali race became a threat in the 1980s and they were branded as anti-nationals.  When suddenly a population had become the enemy of the state, obviously the state dealt it with iron hands.
Organizations like Amnesty International states that several thousands of Southern Bhutanese were imprisoned, and more than 2000 tortured, following the government’s action. Nepali language was eliminated from the school curriculum. As a result of this, thousands had fled to India and Nepal.
According to some reports the flow of refugees into Nepal was up to 600 per day in 1992. Around one lakh people were sheltering in United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)-administered camps in Nepal’s two south-eastern districts by the end of 1992.
“A resettlement process happened in 2008, which has seen thousands of Bhutanese refugees from the camps in Nepal being resettled to USA, Canada, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway, “ says a Canadian activist who fights for Bhutanese refugees.
Figures published in December 2009 revealed that 22,060 refugees have been resettled in the US, 1006 in Australia, 892 in Canada, 316 in Norway, 305 in Denmark, 299 in New Zealand and 122 in the Netherlands.
According to the rights activist, the number of refugees in Canada is around 3000. He also blames that the independent Christian organisations are trying to convert these people to Christianity. He also tells that the same thing happens to the refugees resettled in other countries.
The Bhutanese refugees wish to come to their country, but the Bhutan government never ready to accept them. The activists fighting for them have called for the intervention of Indian government in the issue on the belief that India can pressure Bhutan.
They have submitted a memorandum to Indian MP Tarun Vijay and also requested him to present the issue in Indian Parliament.

Source:http://www.theviewspost.com/story.php?id=74

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Archived Data from http://bhutaninepali.wordpress.com/2012/06/

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