Skip to comments.Somalia-Bantu Refugees to find New Lives in the United States
Posted on 03/05/2003 9:27:47 AM PST by Copernicus
Fact Sheet: Somali-Bantu Refugees to Find New Lives in United States
About 12,000 will be vetted for resettlement in 50 U.S. towns
The first Somali Bantu refugees will arrive in the United States in the spring of 2003 to begin new lives, according to a Fact Sheet released by the U.S. Department of State February 5. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has attempted for many years to find permanent resettlement sites for them.
Approximately 12,000 refugees under consideration for admission to the U.S. spent most of the past decade in camps along the dangerous Somali-Kenyan border. After rigorous security and physical examinations, those accepted for resettlement will be placed in extended family groups in up to 50 cities and towns across the United States throughout 2003 and 2004.
Following is the text of the Fact Sheet:
(begin fact sheet)
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Population,
Refugees, and Migration
February 5, 2003
Somali Bantu Refugees
In the spring of 2003, the first Somali Bantu refugees will arrive in the United States to begin new lives. This group of approximately 12,000 refugees under consideration for admission to the U.S. has spent most of the past decade languishing in camps along the dangerous Somali-Kenyan border. Descendants of slaves taken from Tanzania and northern Mozambique in the late nineteenth century to the southern Somali coast, the Bantu have remained a persecuted minority in Somalia and cannot return to the homes they fled there.
For many years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sought a place of safe asylum where the Bantu could permanently resettle. Kenya, which struggles to meet the needs of its own population as well as the hundreds of thousands of refugees it hosts, was unable to provide permanent refuge. In 2000, the United State agreed to consider the group for resettlement in the United States.
After being moved from the border to a safer and more accessible site in Kenya, the refugees will undergo interviews with officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to determine if they are eligible for admission into the United States as refugees. In addition, rigorous security checks and medical examinations will be performed on all applicants before they are approved for resettlement. The Bantu will also be provided with literacy training and an extended program of cultural orientation in Kenya before arriving in the United States. They will be placed in extended family groups in up to fifty cities and towns across the United States throughout 2003 and 2004.
Upon arrival in the U.S., each Bantu family will be assigned to one of the ten voluntary agencies under cooperative agreement with the Department of State to provide reception and placement services. These agencies are Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Programs, Immigration and Refugee Services of America, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief Refugee Services. They will assist with basic immediate needs such as housing, furniture, clothing, food, and referrals to employment, ESL, and other services. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service s Office of Refugee Resettlement provides funding to the states and voluntary agencies for longer-term programs for refugees.
For more information on the Somali Bantu, see the fact sheet on the Bantu on the Cultural Orientation website operated by the Center for Applied Linguistics: www.culturalorientation.net.
(end fact sheet)
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I thought the fact sheet posted the list of cities. I'll see if I can go back and find them.
Somali Bantu Overview
Who are they?
The Somali Bantus come from a rural farming region along the Juba River in Somalia. Their ancestors were from Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, and were captured and sold as slaves into Somalia. Their slave origins, and ethnic and cultural differences from native Somalis, kept them a marginalized minority. Few found opportunities beyond subsistence farming. Discrimination and poverty prevented access to schools, land ownership, and everyday rights. The Bantus have had little formal education, low literacy and English levels, large families, almost no U.S. support system, and an almost total lack of exposure to technology and urban life. They practice traditional beliefs and primitive health care approaches. Many have been in refugee camps in Kenya for 10 years. The good news is that they are eager to work, as they have shown in the camps. They have skills in mechanics, small-scale farming, and construction. The Bantus have a strong sense of family and community, which will be helpful to them.
How will they get to the U.S.?
About 1,000 Bantus are currently in post-INS processing, with the hope that they will start arriving in the U.S. in June or July 2003. The total resettled in the U.S. will be 11,800 Bantus. Some cities will receive over 200 cases that are extended families, and members of the same clans. Metro Atlanta may receive about 300 cases. Cultural training is being completed more extensively for the Bantus, with 80 hours of training planned, including specific training for women and youth, and in literacy.
The Bantus have only limited exposure to transportation systems, rental property, and government services, with the exposure being mostly in the camps. Their cultural orientation includes information on work, housing, health, and education in the U.S. American resettlement agencies are preparing to use training and support that worked well with groups with similar characteristics, such as rural African refugees or the Hmong of Southeast Asia. Agencies will be focusing on high school equivalency (GED), English language training, crime awareness, rights and opportunities available to them as newcomers to America, and relations among the myriad ethnic groups in the U.S.
Bantus have had little exposure to Western housing, conveniences, food, electricity, flush toilets, telephones, and kitchen and laundry supplies. This is another area where the orientation used for other rural refugees will be helpful.
Work and Finance
The Bantu have had little experience with banks, automatic tellers, etc. But they are familiar with borrowing land and money, selling produce in markets, and earning wages. Women have worked in the farms and the homes. Their ability to accept almost any job in Somalia and Kenya will serve them well in the U.S. Atlanta area employers are used to hiring refugees who speak little or no English. The refugees are needed in hospitality jobs, cafeterias, food service, custodial jobs, cleaning, packing/shipping, dishwashing, construction, and grounds keeping jobs. 90% of refugees coming to Atlanta have jobs within 90 days. 85% of even the Sudanese Lost Boys, who came from a similar background, were employed within 90 days. Most of these jobs come with health insurance after the refugee is employed 90 days.
The concept of family planning does not exist for the Bantus. Usually the women are either pregnant or breastfeeding. They practice traditional beliefs regarding healing. The use of herbs, prayers, and rituals are common in healing. Female circumcision is also common. Orientation will need to deal significantly with health care, sanitation, and social support issues relating to children and mothers. Many Bantus have low self-esteem because of their history of slavery and subjugation. They have had a prevalence of violence in their lives. Many, including children, are depressed and traumatized. Some of the refugee agencies in Atlanta have relationships with psychologists and mental health professionals who work on sliding scales. These relationships will be used to support the Bantus.
Most of the Bantu children worked on the farms rather than attending schools. It may be difficult for parents to participate in their childrens education in the U.S. But the Bantus have a strong adaptive quality, and many are at least bilingual, which will help them understand what it takes to communicate in a different language. Some of our refugee agencies have special relationships with the schools, which will also be helpful. There are already some Bantu families here who will help mentor the new arrivals. New ESL classes will be specifically tailored to the Bantus needs. After-school youth programs are also provided.
Other support from refugee serving agencies and the state
The Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta (CCMA) will send Bantus they resettle to Jubilee Partners, which is in a rural community in Comer, GA. This program provides for 2 months transitional housing, health screening, life skills classes, ESL classes, and intensive cultural orientation. CCMA also provides gathering groups. These are groups of refugees with facilitators, who discuss their problems, and learn from each other. The facilitators also provide psychological counseling.
The Bantus also will have access to Cash Assistance, Food Stamps, Medicaid, the Georgia Energy Assistance Program, Match Grant Program, Planned Parenthood of GA., Medicaid from Peachcare for Kids, Individual Development Account Savings Programs, low-income mortgage and loans programs, subsidized housing, legal services, United Way Home Front funding for rental assistance, tutoring programs, summer and after-school activities for children, nutrition programs for women and children, driving lessons, dental care, family planning clinics, pre-employment training, domestic violence counselors and shelters, child care, mental and physical health services and educational services, including literacy, ESL, GED, and technical skills classes for non-traditional students, including teenage mothers.
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Tier One: Approved for Bantu resettlement beginning immediately
San Diego CA
Chicago IL (smaller families only)
Ft. Wayne IN
Kansas City KS/MO
West Springfield MA
Grand Rapids MI
Binghamton, Syracuse NY
Sioux Falls ND
Dallas/Ft. Worth TX
San Antonio TX
Salt Lake City UT
Tier Two approved to begin resettlement after a date TBD by PRM
Las Vegas NV
Tri Cities WA
Tier Three: Sites not approved but may be revisited at a later date after additional input
Los Angeles CA
Orange County CA
301 area code, MD
New York, NY
*PRM is visiting these cities Feb 10-14.
I wonder what they consider smaller fammilies? Under 30 or under 40. Their geneology trees look like shrubs!
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The Lost Boys fron the Sudan were Christians, not Muslims as these are.
They didn't bring their large families with them, but came here as single persecuted people.
What, there is nowhere in the Muslim world that they can find a homeland ? Oh yeah, Muslims don't do that: see Palestininas.
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