All Articles Tagged "refugees"

Can African Americans Be Considered Refugees?

January 13th, 2016 - By Nneka Samuel
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Image: CBC

Image: CBC

“The United States has always been a terrible country to live in.  The United States government is always murdering, undermining and underestimating its Black citizens – and I have no intention of going back.”

The above statement comes from New York native Kyle Lydell Canty, a 30-year-old African-American man who sought refugee status from our neighbor to the north, claiming he feared for his life as a Black man in the United States due to ongoing police violence.  Canty, however, was recently denied status by Canada’s Immigration Refugee Board. This was decided on the grounds that his case was not well-founded and that being sent back to the U.S. (after he visited British Columbia and decided to stay) “would not subject him personally to a risk to his life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

Back in October, Canty submitted 18 exhibits in his case that described racial disparities and police brutality as motivation for asylum.  Canty’s evidence for refugee protection also included video footage he shot himself.  But the IRB’s decision, written by member Ron Yamauchi, stated that Canty’s demeanor in the submitted video evidence “is not redolent of intimidation.”  In one of the clips, Yamauchi writes, Canty interacted with police officers and addressed them with comments like, “You guys are just ridiculous,” and “You’re dumb.”  He also noted that Canty’s encounters with police did not result in “assault, excessive detention or lack of due process.”

Because Canty is facing several misdemeanor criminal charges in multiple states, including jaywalking, issuing threats and disorderly conduct, some might think that he presented his case simply as a ploy to evade the law.  Canty, who in an interview stated he’s not naïve enough to believe that Canada is completely void of racism, asserts that the charges he faces are racially motivated and unfounded.  Regardless of your opinions on Canty’s case, it raises some old, albeit interesting questions.

We’ve seen all too many cases of the harsh realities of shopping while Black, laughing while Black, driving while Black, walking while Black, voting while Black, attending college while Black, playing with a toy while Black and so on and so forth. What if Canada or other countries were actually to offer asylum to African-American men and women seeking refugee status due to systemic and institutional racism, racial profiling, etc.?  Would we go?  Should we go?  No one country has extended such an offer, but the path, the journey for social, political and economic freedom in a life lived outside of the United States is well-chartered territory for African Americans.  Many servicemen and especially artists of the not-so-distant past – Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson – made the decision to leave the U.S. and openly spoke about their grievances at home and experiences in non-segregated cities and countries deemed havens for African Americans.

But fleeing your native land is no simple feat.  Refugee status aside, assuming you have the means with which to up and relocate yourself and/or your family to another country, would you find work of equal/better value or pay?  What about learning a foreign language?  What about the trauma, burden and pain, the internalized experiences that you might intentionally or unintentionally carry with you no matter where you move, experiences that can hinder and impede the very change you seek?  I certainly don’t have the answers and am not afraid to acknowledge that I’m overwhelmed by the very questions I pose.  I realize that making a choice like this is very personal in nature and is further complicated by a host of factors.

I do know, however, that racism can happen anywhere.  White privilege can happen anywhere.  Having to start anew in a country you already call home – that’s difficult for most folks.  But having to start anew in a foreign country is not an ideal or realistic situation for a lot of American-born citizens, and can be deemed extreme, infeasible or unnecessary.  One person might perceive permanent relocation to a foreign country due to racism as allowing the system to defeat you.  Another might see it as a means of self-preservation.  Some might already consider African Americans to be refugees in our own land, the very place many foreigners come to for solace, opportunity and above all else, freedom.  To me, moving from the U.S. to another country to avoid the dangers at home doesn’t change the reality, it just removes you from the situation.  If that best serves you and is necessary for your survival, so be it.  But no matter how you view it, we shouldn’t have to flee to feel safe or seek refuge.  The fact remains that there’s still a great amount of change that needs to occur in order to challenge the corrupt, unfair systems and practices that are in place in this country, challenges that activists, protesters, organizations and everyday citizens bring to light and seek to change on a daily basis.  It’s collective, tough, necessary work.  We all want the place we call home to be safe, fair, free, and just. That’s not too much to ask.

As for Canty, he told Vice that he won’t appeal the IRB’s decision and is already weary of dealing with the Canadian government. But his opinion on the United States stands strong: “I still hate America.”

What do you think about Canty’s failed refugee case?  If you were afforded asylum from racism, would you move to another country?

Mother Teresa of Somalia Fights Famine With Her Own Means

June 28th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Dr. Hawa Abdi and DaughtersBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Dr. Hawa Abdi began her humanitarian efforts in her native Somalia by opening a one-room hospital for women on her 1,300 acre farm. Twenty years later, her home is now a sprawling camp supporting 100,000 people seeking refuge from the country’s  war-torn, famine-ravaged surroundings. Children are tragically facing the highest risks there, as seven youngsters a day die under Dr. Abdi’s care from starvation. No humanitarian organization will come to her aid, because of the extreme danger of the region.

Despite these challenges, Mama Hawa — as her flock calls her — persists in trying to feed and provide medical care to the families under her protection. She and her two daughters, both medical doctors, administer to these needy by teaching farming and fishing, providing education and day care, and even giving free water and space those near her hospital. Such services are available only at a price in most of Somalia today, as anarchy and conflict have made the preservation of life a luxury most people choose to profit from.

While she has maintained the camp successfully until now, Dr. Hawa Abdi’s challenges might become insurmountable if financial aid is not forthcoming soon. A worsening drought in East Africa has killed all the animals on the farm, and it is feared that the people are next. The Daily Beast reports:

Right now, however, the camp, and the country, have reached a new level of crisis. Hawa needs help—a lot of it. She is receiving no food help—none—from any international organization. In the past, the International Red Cross and World Food Program have helped supply food when things get bad. Doctors Without Borders, and others, have run a clinic and supplied basic medicine.

Every international aid organization has now abandoned her, in part because of the political challenges of reaching the camp, which is located in an area under the control of the militant forces of the al-Qaeda inspired group, al-Shabaab. However, for the most part, since Hawa successfully defended the camp from their attack in May 2010,  the militants have left her largely alone.

Hawa’s work is not political. It’s entirely humanitarian, and even the militants seem to get that. Or perhaps they’re a bit scared of this 64-year-old lawyer, doctor, survivor of brain cancer: a force of nature who buried more than 10,000 people during the famine of the 1990s.

Back then, she says, they had international help. Now, she’s on her own.

According to Democracyinaction.org, a group called Vital Voices has joined with “Glamour magazine to help support Dr. Hawa Abdi’s cause through their Women of the Year Fund initiative.” Through their web site, you can make a contribution that will help Dr. Hawa Abdi prevent 49 children a week from dying of malnutrition, while granting countless life-affirming opportunities to others. She and her daughters have remained in their struggling land to assist those who cannot fend for themselves, risking their lives in the process. If the international aid community will not contribute to their cause, citizens of the world who care can and should.

Student Earns Ivy League Degree After Childhood as Refugee

June 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Morris Kaunda MichaelBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Morris Kaunda Michael spent his formative years struggling with his family in a refugee camp after fleeing Sudan’s civil war. Now 23, he has just graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering. Despite the sunny smile and youthful glow that is common to students, Michael’s path to accomplishment was far from typical. A top-performing student according to his professors, he started life facing harsh deprivations — but this did not stymie his desire to develop. Yes, he grew up in a refugee camp where “there was a lot of hopelessness,” Micheal said. Yet he always strove to be his best.

Michael’s family escaped the civil war in Sudan, which killed two million people and displaced four million others. Leaving behind everything they had, Michael, his mother and seven siblings settled in a Kenyan camp. Michael struggled under these circumstances as a boy, playing soccer and attending school when possible from 1994-2001. Then, a chance opportunity broadened his horizons. Today.com reports:

In 2001, his luck began to change. He was offered a scholarship at a school in Nairobi run by Dominican nuns called the Emmanuel Foundation. His older brother attended the same school, and from there they began the process of applying for resettlement in the U.S. […]

In December 2003 he came to the U.S. with his older brother and was placed in the care of his foster mother, Carol Karins, in Syracuse, N.Y. He said his new home was affectionately called the “U.N. of Syracuse” because Karins hosted a number of refugees from other countries […]

Michael said he had never even thought of going to college until he came to the U.S. As a high school student, he loved math and science, so his guidance counselor suggested he look into engineering programs.

“I owe a lot to a lot of people,” Michael said. “Columbia, I would say, was the family I always wished to have. They helped me a lot.”

Still, the academics were challenging. “I felt really humbled. I didn’t feel like I was among the smartest in the classroom. I had to always work very hard. It encourages you — you don’t do well today, you work harder and then the next day, you’d probably do fine.”

Morris Kaunda Michael has done more than fine. In addition to graduating from a challenging engineering program, Michael also co-created a fetal monitoring device with a group of students that won a national prize. And he is not stopping there. Now applying to medical schools, this Sudanese whiz kid plans on using his talents to help others. Michael has plans to alleviate suffering in third world countries when he has finished his studies.

He told “The Today Show”: “There are a lot of refugees out there struggling. They feel like they don’t really belong anymore. They feel like they’ve lost it. There is no chance they can get up and do it anymore. So I wanna tell them that they can do it. I am here. I tried my best. I am not the smartest person, but I tried; I worked hard.”

What an amazing example of making the most of one’s opportunities, no matter how humble your beginnings.

Packets Remind Lost Boys of War-Torn Childhood in Sudan

December 15th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(AJC) — When Deng-Athoi Galuak walked into the refugee camp in Ethiopia, he was a thinned-out, raggedy kid who had survived the bombing of his village, three months of walking, two bouts of malaria, starvation and predation by wolves and lions.  Days ago, thanks to some newly available records, Galuak saw, for the first time, a 22-year-old photo of himself in that refugee camp. He was only 6 or 7. “At first, it didn’t look like me, then I looked again,” said Galuak, now 29 and living in Lilburn. “I cried.”

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