• Echoes of Cuban History Still Ring in the Ears of Long Time Cuban Refugees
  • Refugees Resettled in Small Cities and Suburbs Face Transportation Challenges
  • Refugees from Anti-LGBTQI Violence in Chechnya Warily Come Out of Hiding
  • Somali Refugee Family hides 16 Years in Nairobi Before Living Freely in Buffalo
  • View from Bay Ridge: Syrian With Asylum Looks Toward Home

Echoes of Cuban History Still Ring in the Ears of Long Time Cuban Refugees

BY JORDAN KISSANE – The walls of Gema Sanchez’ small home in Miami are decorated with crosses and Catholic rosaries, and on this day, Sanchez was thinking of another house in Cuba years ago when she spent Sunday mornings in church and Sunday afternoons cooking arroz con frijoles with her Abuela, or grandmother.        They always sang Celia Cruz songs, she said. “She was like today’s Beyoncè,” Sanchez laughed, remembering the…

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Refugees Resettled in Small Cities and Suburbs Face Transportation Challenges

BY LAUREN HARRIS – Salah Kamal, a 30-year old Syrian refugee, has a love-hate relationship with the public bus of his hometown, Grand Rapids, Mich. When he was resettled in 2016 in Grand Rapids, a mid-size Michigan city, the local bus system was his only connection to food, healthcare, work and important immigration appointments. Though riding the bus made such things possible, Kamal says, it didn’t necessarily make them easy….

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Refugees from Anti-LGBTQI Violence in Chechnya Warily Come Out of Hiding

BY RAISA OSTAPENKO – K is one of a handful of refugees from Chechnya’s persecuted LGBTQI+ community who has been bold enough to talk publicly after fleeing the wave of persecution directed against the marginalized group. Some survivors detail abuses endured at the hands of authorities in the Caucasian republic, while others relate the struggles and joys of integrating into the new societies that have granted them asylum. K falls…

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Somali Refugee Family hides 16 Years in Nairobi Before Living Freely in Buffalo

BY YILUN CHENG – The Ali family finally received news after 16 years of staying illegally in Nairobi that their resettlement applications had been approved. Refugees from Somalia, they faced more than seven months of intensive interviews that had paid off at last. They now had a flight to Buffalo, an American city that they had never heard of. Mustafa Ali, now 28 and the lead case manager of Buffalo’s…

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View from Bay Ridge: Syrian With Asylum Looks Toward Home

BY TAMARA SAADE – On a warm Friday evening in Damascus in early February 2019, the Al Nahlawi family celebrated a daughter’s engagement with a festive dinner with the fiancé’s family. Far away in New York, through a few family selfies and pictures shared on WhatsApp, Ahmad Al Nahlawi, the father of the soon-to-be bride, could almost pretend he was with them. Having obtained asylum in the U.S., the 55-year-old…

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Once Jailed in China, Human Rights Lawyer Still Fighting For Justice in NJ

BY RONNIE LI – Biao Teng, a Chinese human rights lawyer, was walking on a street near his home one day eight years ago when someone came up behind him suddenly, took off his shirt and covered his eyes with it, and then forced him into a car before he could make a sound. Teng was taken into custody and held for about 10 weeks in solitary confinement in retaliation…

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No Easy Path to Canadian Citizenship For Some Syrian Refugees

BY YEJI LEE – Canada has received international attention for an innovative program that has brought 56,800 Syrian refugees into the country by pairing one refugee family with five volunteer Canadian sponsors for a year. Now, in early 2019, close to 25,000 of those refugees are eligible to apply for citizenship. For those refugees looking to become Canadians, however, more obstacles lie ahead. “I would say around 90 percent of…

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Without a Country of Their Own, Stateless People Remain in Limbo

BY MIRNA ALSHARIF – Karina Ambartsoumian Clough was just three years old when her parents started preparing her and her little sister for what was going to be a long trip. “I remember my mother putting multiple layers on us to minimize packing,” said 30-year-old Clough, a Philadelphia resident. “I also distinctly remember a train, a plane, and a boat. The train took us to Germany, where my dad called…

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Yemenis Yearn for Home After Fleeing War

Kawthar Abdullah was 19 when she fled her home country of Yemen in July of 2015. She left with her sister, who was 15 at the time, on a boat from Aden, a port city on the southern end of the red sea, to Djibouti, a country on the horn of Africa. Her parents, who were in New York, payed $3,000 to smuggle their daughters out of Yemen. Abdullah is 22 now. “We were really on the verge of drowning,” Abdullah said softly in a cafe in downtown Manhattan, while a top 40 pop song played on the speakers behind her. “People took their entire livelihood with them on that boat.”

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African Migrants in Israel Face Deportation to Brutal Homelands

BY KATHERINE NOEL — Bluts Iyassu Zeru is one of thousands of African migrants living in Israel illegally who have been at the center of national debate since the beginning of the year, when the government declared that all “infiltrators” must leave the country by March 31 or face imprisonment. Though the highest Israeli court halted the deportation plan in mid-March after human rights organizations widely criticized it, the Israeli government has remained unwavering in its push to force the African migrant population out. An estimated 38,000 African migrants have crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert in the last 5-10 years, fleeing persecution and ongoing conflict. The vast majority of these migrants arrived from Eritrea and Sudan before 2013, when the Israeli government completed construction of a 152-mile border fence.

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#Metoo Movement in Kenya

Christian Colon When she is not selling tomatoes and kale around her hometown of Kakuma, Kenya, Jane Indeche is working as a housekeeper cleaning and cooking for additional income to take home for her five-month old baby girl. The 5,000 extra Kenyan Shillings, about $50 U.S Dollars, were not enough to compensate the pain Indeche would feel after one of her male employers groped and verbally harassed her for over…

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Slave or Family: Child Domestic Service In Haiti

BY MONIQUE LeBRUN — In Haiti, children from poor families become restaveks, which means to stay with in both French and Creole, because their parents can’t afford to take care of them or send them to school. Often families from rural parts of Haiti send their children to live in the city with a distant relative, family friend or a stranger. Families agree to take care of restaveks and pay for their education. But the agreement is almost never kept, according to Haitian activists, NGOs and former restaveks. The estimated 300,000 children are turned into domestic servants and abused, a situation some have compared to slavery.

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Desperate Family Escapes Brutal Gang Violence in El Salvador, But May Have to Return

BY CRISTINA SARNOFF — On a hot, humid, summer afternoon four years ago in the village of Apopa in El Salvador, a middle school teacher arrived home after classes to find her teenage daughter’s body draped across her front door with 13 bullet holes. This was the mark of a notorious and deadly gang. “I never thought this could happen to me,” the schoolteacher said in tears recently. “I’ve witnessed families losing a child to gang crimes before but somehow thought I was immune to it. I’m a schoolteacher and combat nurse. Some of my students even belong to the gangs. God help my children.”

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Venezuelan Women Spend Hours and Hours on Food Lines

BY MARIE PAULINE GENTRIC — It’s only 3 p.m. but Mary Limonta knows exactly what she and her daughter, Ann, will eat tonight – rice and vegetables. Yesterday, it was the same, and tomorrow, and even after tomorrow, it will be the same too. It’s been like that for a while. Since 2013, Venezuelans like Limonta have been trying to survive the most severe recession and food crisis in the country history. National production and imports have plunged and supermarket shelves are almost always empty. Prices rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months ending in February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly. In this crisis, women are the ones looking for food. They spend between eight and 14 hours a week in line to get food, according to the report “Mujeres Al Limite,” released by four Venezuelan NGOs in 2017.

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After Years of Running from the Taliban, Afghan Asylum Seeker Restarts as Conn. Uber Driver

BY JUSTIN MAFFETT — In February 2011, Abdul Rahman, then a longtime employee of an American food company operating in Afghanistan, was abducted, tortured, and held for 20 days at the bottom of a well by the Taliban, which had grown suspicious of Rahman’s ties to the United States. After his abduction and eventual release, Rahman was granted asylum in the United States. Today he lives in West Haven, Conn. with his wife and two young children. He was placed here in 2014 with the help of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, better known as IRIS, a non-profit resettlement agency based in New Haven, affiliated with the Episcopal Migration Ministries. Now a safe distance from the dangers of Afghanistan, Rahman is comfortable to reflect on his ordeal as a hostage of the Taliban seven years ago.

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Rural Women Farm Half the World’s Food, But Have Few Legal and Cultural Rights to Land Ownership

BY NICOLE LAFOND — For 66-year-old Uganda widow Pasculina Oming, the quest for farmland that is rightfully hers has cost her an arm. Two, in fact. A widow since 2014 in the Lira District of northern Uganda, Oming has been caring for herself, her seven sons and one mentally disabled daughter by farming the land she inherited from her husband. While federal law in Uganda recognizes Oming as the owner of the acreage, the customs of her local tribe, Iceme, dictate that the land belongs to her late husband’s family. In the spring of 2014, Oming was walking home from the market with her nieces when her brother-in-law attacked her with a “panga” machete, attempting to kill her for what was culturally perceived as arrogance for staking her claim over the land. Oming has received no justice from local courts for the attack, but a Ugandan legal team called Barefoot Law that is working to help rural women gain access to land in remote parts of the country has picked up Oming’s case.

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Kidnapped on the Road to Work in Venezuela

BY CHRISTIAN COLON — “Fue la gota que derramó el vaso,” Spanish for the drop that overflowed the cup. That is how Mauricio Jaramillo described the morning he was kidnapped a year and a half ago on the freeway, heading to his job in Caracas, Venezuela. He parked and made a quick pit stop on the side of road. Company pickup truck still running, Jaramillo opened the driver seat door and headed for the woods. Barely two steps out of his car, two armed men ambushed him, threatened and forced him back inside and took control of his truck. “Inside, that is where it all began,” he said. Jaramillo, clueless to where they were going, arrived to his destination after they drove for what felt like hours. While captured, he was interrogated and extorted. The abduction was the final push Jaramillo needed to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States.

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Puerto Ricans Say Feds Treat Them Like Refugees Not As US Citizens

BY NICOLE LAFOND — Katia Marie Ramos is experiencing depression for the first time in her life. It’s not been fueled by the loss of her home, which, last she saw it, stood in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with nothing left but a few upright walls, loose wires and a tangled tarp for a roof. It wasn’t ignited by the panic she experienced while she rode out Category Four Hurricane Maria in her friend’s home, clutching her four-year-old daughter to her chest. It’s not because she lost her job after the building where she worked as a security guard was destroyed in the storm, or the fact that she had to sell all of her belongings, including her car, in order to purchase a plane ticket to evacuate to the mainland after the storm. Ramos is one of 4,000 Puerto Rican families being put up in hotels in 41 states by the federal government after their homes were destroyed or deemed unlivable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Maria struck on September 20. She and her daughter are also one of hundreds of families who will be further displaced when FEMA cuts off their federal transitional assistance next month.

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An Egyptian Photographer’s Journey From Chronicling Revolution to Exile in U.S.

BY CECILIA BUTINI — Each Sunday, in a co-working space just a few blocks from the Capitol in Washington, DC, half a dozen men and women from Egypt meet to discuss the current state of their country and to brainstorm ideas to make an impact from afar, or to help their fellow citizens there. Mostafa Bassim, a 28-year-old with thick curly hair, lounged on a couch in the wood-floored space on a Sunday afternoon, a grave expression on his face as he started to recount the day his life changed. In November 2013, as Egypt transitioned from Mohammad Morsi’s brief presidency to the military rule of general Abdel Fattah El Sisi after a coup, Mostafa was in the middle of a protest in Alexandria, on Egypt’s coast. He wasn’t there to protest, but to take photos for a national publication named Veto. As he got closer to take photos of two police officers arresting and beating a protester, one officer turned to Bassim and started beating him too, he said.

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Victim of Political Violence in Bangladesh in 1990s Still Fears Going Home

BY MARIE CENTRIC — It’s been 26 years since Osman Chowdhury was almost killed by a gang in Bangladesh and fled to the United States. Chowdhury said he is still scared of being killed when he goes back to his native country. Chowdhury was 24 in 1991, when seven young men attacked him in Chittagong, in Southern Bangladesh, surprising him in second floor government office. They broke his nose and tried strangle him with his tie, he said. Chowdhury managed to escape, ran out to the streets and made it to a police station. “I had to save my life,” Chowdhury, now 52, said with a trembling voice. But the seven attackers pursued him inside the precinct, and officers were afraid of them and refused to press charges, Chowdhury said.

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Zimbabwe: Child Brides

BY TANYA NYATHI — In Zimbabwe, 72 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day. Biting hunger, cash shortages, tight liquidity, and collective layoffs are common. According to International Labour Organization, over 80 percent of the population is unemployed. In many families, arranging a marriage for a daughter reduces the number of mouths to feed.

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Syrian Refugees with Disabilities and the Scramble to Accommodate Them

BY KYLEE TSURU — “When people are on the move, or really fleeing, they enter a new environment that is busy and different. It is especially hard for that individual and family to cope if a disability is involved,” said Mica Bevington of Handicap International, an organization that provides aid to people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations living in conflict and disaster zones.

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Not Welcomed Home: Pakistan’s Ahmadi Community

BY HANIYA JAVED — There are as many 5000 Ahmadi Muslims living in the tristate area of New York. Seventy percent of them are Pakistanis, according to Ahmadiyya Muslim Communtiy, USA. The highest numbers of asylum seekers are from Pakistan because of the anti Ahmadi laws and constitutional amendments introduced in 1974 that declared the community non Muslims and made it a criminal offence for them to pose as Muslims.

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African Refugees Fleeing Persecution, and Arriving at Yemen’s War

BY DAVID JEANS — Since 2013, smugglers and human traffickers have lured almost 300,000 Ethiopian and Somali refugees to cross the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with promises of security and economic opportunities. More than 400 people have died during the journey since 2013, according to the United Nations. But the inflow of refugees poses a complicated exigency for humanitarian efforts working to stabilize the country — as Yemeni’s flee their own country in the opposite direction toward the Horn of Africa.

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Women as First Responders

BY ASWINI PERIYASAMY When asked why she became a first responder during Liberia’s Ebola Crisis, Brenda Brewer Moore said she drew her resolve from one of her country’s darkest times, “I lived the majority of my childhood years in Liberia during the civil war and saw the amount of death and destruction that the war caused. And as a child, one thing I promised myself was that one thing that I…

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Will Vietnam Legalize Prostitution?

Vietnam debates the issue — unthinkable a decade ago in a country dominated by Confucianism. By DIEN LUONG It was past midnight and Ngo Thi Mong Linh had already gone to sleep when her cellphone suddenly rang. Linh knew all too well what to anticipate from the other end. “A sex worker was urging me to come to rescue her,” Linh recalled in an interview. “Her client robbed her of…

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Zambia: The Vexing Problem of Violence Against Women

BY BRIAN FRESKOS Shadreck Banda wanted to punish his wife. The couple had gotten into an argument about dinner. Banda wanted nshima, a traditional Zambian porridge, with roasted pork; but his wife, Beatrice Zulu, had foregone the pork and cooked beans instead. After his wife had lain down, Banda erupted into a fit of vengeance, picked the piping pot of beans off the fire and poured it onto her. Zulu…

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Beyond the Podium: Women Compete Internationally for Gender Equality at Home

BY ANNIKA HAMMERSCHLAG When Moroccan-born Nawal el Moutawakel won the gold medal for the 400 meter hurdles at the 1984 Summer Olympics, she became the first woman from not only Morocco, but a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal. “It changed how people looked at a woman athlete from that culture,” said American Olympian Donna de Varona, who has won two gold medals in swimming and has…

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Women’s Vital Role in Collecting and Managing Water

BY SAHER KHAN In the Niger Delta, women, who have the primary responsibility for management of household water supply, are providing dirty water to their families, not because they want to, but because they have no choice. According to UNEP and an Amnesty International analysis, the history of oil exploration in the Niger Delta has contaminated fisheries and polluted groundwater pipes and boreholes that are sources of water in communities…

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Ghana: A Community Approach to Violence against Women

BY KATHRYN DAVIS Women and girls in Ghana have been victims of sexual assaults and other gender-based violence at some of the highest rates in the world, and Ghanaian officials say they have made little progress in stopping the violence. “We still experience high rates of gender-based violence in many societies globally, Ghana included, violence within families, culture and it defies all of our efforts,” Martha Ama Akaya, Ghana’s UN…

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Empowering Muslim Women through Storytelling

BY SAHER KHAN A petite woman, dressed in black save the white silk scarf wrapped around her head takes her place at the center of a stage. “Do you know what it’s like to represent a billion human beings everyday you walk out of your house?” she asks the audience. “To be looked at as a representation of an entire world religion? It’s exhausting…I’m tired,” she goes on. “I’m tired…

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Evaluating the United Nations with Gender

BY JIHYE LEE Critiquing yourself is hard. And imagine if the evaluation is of a decades long effort to fulfill the goals of fighting poverty, inequality and climate change. It’s made ieven tougher because the crucial data and feedback come from the countries whose records aren’t stellar on those issues In mid March, a number of organizations gathered at the United Nations to discuss methods of evaluating the process of…

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