Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Help Her Get Her Kids Back

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 1:54 PM

With every refugee around the world dreaming of resettlement as the best durable solution over repatriation and integration, there are lot more challenges than we as refugees are unaware of.

Growing up in our Third World countries, we learn about the developed world. But the main thing we get is these countries are rich and everyone that gets there will automatically do well.

With wars swiping us out of our countries and leaving us in worse conditions than back home, these dreams of moving or being resettled abroad rise higher than ever. Refugees would do whatever we can to get out of the UN camps where we temporarily wait for peace in our respective nations.

Like I wrote in my poem: “It’s hard to know the evil a good eye sees, if you are a blind eye. All you want is a good eye.” Coming to the US has made me think so much and ask myself, had most of these people known all these things that they are trying to understand now, would they have wanted to come to these countries?

Some people may look at me and say, 'But Fidel! You’ve always talked about what a blessing it has been for you coming to the US.' I know, it’s has been a blessing for me and I am killing to have some of my family come and share it with me. But is it the same for others?

I’ve been paying close attention to how refugees have been developing wherever they were sent, mostly in Europe and America, and a good number in Australia, and I will tell you that many of them are still lost and find it hard to find their path. Despite those thousands of cases of family destruction, being married to the law or struggling trying to know what to do, I have been having it tough to understand this one dilemma this particular refugee faced just in her first year in the US.

A woman from Burundi landed in Idaho with five children. She was pregnant, could not speak a word of English, Swahili, French or any other international language; all she could speak was Kirundi. Living in a refugee camp for years, she knew nothing about new technology and coming to Idaho was like her birthday into the new world, new language, new civilization and new everything.

By new everything I mean almost everything she would see or hear was new for her. Like I mentioned earlier, people may question me for saying I am blessed being here, unlike this woman. When I moved here I had already known 90 percent of what America would be like, I spoke 10 languages already including English, I had lived in more than six countries and grew up in a city with technology and laws nearly like America's (South Africa).

This woman has seen the worst in the US, things that no refugee should ever see in her first year. After giving birth to her sixth child, her volunteer sponsors built a social case against her that resulted in her losing her children to the state. She was a loving mother, never abused her kids in any way, but the cultural differences to which she was still trying to adapt fell into play, and the people that volunteered to help her turned against her and built a case against her. She lost all six of her children seven months ago now and was treated so unfairly because of the emotions of love that she showed, crying and throwing herself to the ground, making Americans, who could not understand the value of a child to an African, say she was mentally ill.

My concern here is: When we are brought to these countries, we come oblivious to everything and we need a bit of time to adjust, learn and change some things to meet these country's laws. Having the book thrown at you in your first year is not something anyone would like to see, especially in a case like the above.

I would not question having a refugee thrown in the hands of the law for things like DUI, murder, abuses of any sort of illegal things. With common sense, every human being would know that killing, stealing driving under the influence and many more things are wrong. But social cases contain a lot of cultural differences that this woman was supposed to be oriented on. In her first year looking for a job, learning English and trying to learn how to use a vacuum cleaner, these volunteers could have taught her how to do things to the American standard rather than throwing her in the hands of the law. What effect does that have on refugees trusting volunteers? I have seen other refugees deny volunteers from entering their houses with fears that they would do such a thing to them too.

This case has more details to it but they can not be talked about due to the children being involved. Many refugees would love to hear people step up to try and help her get her family back. But as refugees in these new countries, people fear their status and can not speak up. She needs lawyers, advisers and all others that think they can help in any way as her kids are her life. She finds life useless without them and I know every woman, weather African, American, European or Australian would share these painful feelings with her.

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