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Rebel Soldiers of Sudan
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rebel soldiers of Sudan
Guardian Weekly
Tuesday September 2nd 2008

Chad is one of the world’s poorest countries. Racked by economic and social instability its east is flooded with refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan and militia groups from both Sudan and Chad. The rebels, who are heavily armed, wear green headscarves and camouflage gear; these identify them as rebels but give no clue to the observer as to which group they are from. Ibrahim, 22, is a member of the Sudanese rebel group JEM. Holding his Belgian rifle aloft he talks about leaving school and joining the army to protect his village

Ibrahim poses with his rifle. Photograph: Sam Mann

I am here to protect the community from the janjaweed from Sudan, who just yesterday came and took all their animals. What I do is make a barrier at the frontier, then wait in the mountains until the janjaweed come to attack the population; then I put myself between them and the community and we fight.

It is hard. The community is in a constant state of fear. The janjaweed attack, steal and then flee, and the community has no protection. Sometimes we get wounded. When that happens we go to Birak, in Chad, for treatment. The janjaweed take their wounded to Sudan.

I am 22 and I have been a soldier since the beginning of the war in 2003. I was in school before, but when the war began the janjaweed killed my parents and my brothers and took all our animals, so I stopped school and joined the army.

Our objective here is to secure the community. I am not alone. There are many others, but they stay out surveying the fields where the animals are. Normally the young soldiers go out into the fields and the older ones stay behind in the villages. There are almost 600 of us. As we are so close to the border with Sudan there is always a problem with the janjaweed coming.

Although life as a soldier is hard, I feel obliged to protect the community. The community is obliged to assist us as well – with food and shelter, for example. But they have nothing themselves, so have nothing to give us, and it is very difficult. We receive no salary, nothing at all.

We are very cut off here, and far from the big decisions that get made. Those who negotiate with the government are on a different level and we hear nothing about it. All we can hope for is that peace comes.

As events unfolded in Sudan every family here in Chad contributed an animal in order to buy weapons to fight the Sudanese government, but when a lot of parents and families were killed we had to flee. I joined the army and had some brief training. I bought my own gun, and my uniform too.

Now I have my own family: a wife and a baby. I hope for peace. I never wanted to be a soldier. I never wanted to leave school. When peace comes I would like to resume my studies.

• Ibrahim, whose name has been changed, was speaking to Sam Mann. Mann was in eastern Chad under the protection of the UNHCR.

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Refugees in the News:  Korto on Project Runway
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Korto is a former refugee from Liberia and is a contestant on Bravo’s Project Runway.  She attended fashion school in Canada and then moved outside of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Korto’s story is inspiring to refugees who are trying to achieve their dreams in their new homes.  Tune in this season to Bravo to cheer on Korto!

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Refugee Videos: Thailand Refugee Camp for Karen Burmese
Saturday, August 30, 2008

140,000 refugees from Burma currently live in camps in Thailand.  Many are being resettled in the United States and Atlanta is one of the chosen cities.  Burmese families are being assisted by Refugee Family Services and a few are participating in our Pre-K program. 

For those who have not been resettled outside the refugee camp, the UN has given alternatives to boredom and violence through education and sports.  This video gives a look into how programming can help those in need. 

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International Refugee News

RFS recently started a Pre-K program especially for our refugee clients.  Keeping in that spirit, read about how a non-profit is teaching refugees who are not lucky enough to be resettled outside a refugee camp.

Teaching refugees

Tuesday August 7th 2007: Guardian Weekly
Link to Article

On the Thai-Burmese border 150,000 refugees have waited for news of where they might be resettled out of reach of the Burmese military that hounded them there. Some have been in camps for more than 20 years, meaning many children born inside have finished their entire school education, only to graduate to a life of continued uncertainty. Peter Salnikowski of the International Organisation for Migration works with the lucky ones, teaching them how to survive in an alien culture as they are resettled thousands of miles away

Tuesday August 7th 2007

The refugee camp at Mae La Oon, on the Thai/Burmese border. Photograph: Peter Salnikowski

All of the refugee camps are a long way from what you’d think of as tourist Thailand. Mostly they’re right up against the Burmese border, and most of them are at the end of whatever road there may be, which makes access to them generally quite difficult.

They’re not really like prisons – the refugees are technically not allowed out but there’s no way to keep them inside the barbed wire. It’s easy to sneak out. One of the camps has 50,000 people and stretches for 3km, so there’s no way to control that. People do sneak in and out, but there’s not really anywhere to go.

Most of these people came across in major waves, starting more than 20 years ago, but they are still arriving today and there are still kids being born into these camps.

Everyone gets rations from the Thailand Burma Border Consortium [an alliance of NGOs] made up of: 15kg of rice per person, per month; 1kg of yellow beans; 1kg of a nutritional supplement that they call AsiaMix (a kind of fortified flour that nobody can eat); dried chillies that go mouldy in the rainy season; shrimp paste; cooking oil; salt; and that’s just about it. There are NGOs that provide drinking water, but they still have to boil it. There are healthcare NGOs there, but if you saw one of the hospitals you’d be pretty shocked at how basic it is.

The overall level of education is pretty bad. There are a few NGOs in the camps that deal with schooling up to grade 10 but after that only a lucky few students get scholarships to go to study at another camp. A tiny number have won scholarships to study in Canada, but they’re the exception.

Teaching is in big, long buildings, sometimes partitioned into rooms but often not divided up at all. You might have 10 or 15 classes going on at the same time and they’re all chanting over each other so the noise level is very high – I don’t know how the heck anybody learns anything.

The ‘Karen’ are the major ethnic group, but there are several others. Those learning in Karen end up reading and writing in their own language. It’s a very traditional way of teaching, just listen and repeat, so the education is pretty basic. The Thai script is foreign to them and though you can find students who speak Thai, most don’t. But that might change – last year the authorities made learning Thai obligatory.

The kids study five days a week, seven hours a day. There’s not much to do after school, but they’re kids, so the guys play with marbles and footballs and the girls play a game with stretched elastic that they have to jump over. They don’t have any other materials really. There is one NGO called ‘Right to Play’ that organises sports for them, but that’s just a drop in the ocean.

When people have been selected for relocation to other countries we provide a five-day cultural orientation course, and that activity is picking up in this part of the world. There’s a shift in where countries are taking refugees from. The numbers from Africa are going down and the numbers in this area are going up.

For the people on our courses, at this point in their lives, this training means everything because they’re totally clueless about the country they’re going to and they have a lot of wrong conceptions. They hear a lot of rumours and their expectations can be completely wrong. They want to know about Canada or the US or Australia and they ask: ‘What are the camps like over there?’. They have no idea what’s expected of them and what their rights will be when they get there.

If we ever hear anything back after they’ve been resettled, the complaint is that their expectations were too high. Some of them expect it to be a paradise where everything’s easy, that they’ll get a TV and a car right away, which doesn’t always happen – they’ve seen pictures that can make it look that way. So our message for them is a very hard one: that this is going to be an extremely difficult thing to do.

This year the US is attempting to take 16,000 refugees from these camps, so things are absolutely insane here right now – 7,000 have to leave in the next month. Canada and Australia are taking roughly 1,800 each. After that the Scandinavian countries will take a couple of hundred and that’s about it.

The small amount of training we give them here is all they’ve got to go on. They’ll get orientation programmes on the other side, but it’s variable depending upon how many of them arrive in the country at the same time, and which agency is given the job of helping them.

The Karen are a people that are extremely considerate of others so they will not disturb you. If their house burns down they won’t tell anyone for three weeks because they don’t want to put you out. That’s one of the things that makes them special, but it can also make it hard for NGOs to give them help.

• Peter Salnikowski was speaking with Melbourne-based journalist Rob Burgess.

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Join the RFS Young Professionals Council
Thursday, August 14, 2008

The purpose of the Young Professionals Council is to create a group of diverse young professional volunteers between the age of 22 and 39 who support Refugee Family Services through fundraising, volunteer service and social networking.  Our group meets once per month, alternating between socials and “formal” meetings.  The socials are in a casual setting to encourage social networking with members, along with prospective members.  Meetings will be used to discuss the one required fundraiser for RFS and will also be used to facilitate discussions on a popular international issue of the month. 

Membership goals include:
• Regularly attend monthly meetings and socials.
• An interest in learning about RFS and the community it serves.
• Assist the YPC leaders in the development of one yearly fundraiser/activity.
• An effort to volunteer once with refugees in order to understand the community that RFS serves.
• Make a yearly donation of an amount of your choosing.
• Develop a new understanding of cultural and international issues through social networking.

Please contact Brittany at to join!

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Websites on International Refugee Assistance & Advocacy

Governmental Organizations for Refugees

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)


Department of Health & Human Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Resettlement Organizations

The International Rescue Committee
Founded in 1933, The IRC is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by conflict and oppression.

Lutheran Services of Georgia

Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta
RRISA has multiple program areas that are coordinated by a multicultural staff to provide holistic services to our clients. These services include:
Welcoming 350 refugees a year to a safe homeland away from war and genocide
• Assisting over 1000 refugees annually through individual and family support services
• Providing over 4000 hours each year of cultural orientation & legal assistance
• Coordinating information and referral services in over 15 different languages
• Supporting refugee kids with their transition to a new learning environment, providing homework help, English tutoring, and emotional support
• Collaborating with over 30 community organizations, churches and other religious denominations to provide support and community partnerships for refugee families

World Relief
60 YEARS OF SERVICE The heart of our mission is to create lasting impact by strengthening local churches to serve those who are hurting.

USCRI – U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
To address the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services, and promoting the full participation of migrants in community life.

Church World Service
The Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service (CWS/IRP) is an ecumenical family empowering churches to show hospitality to strangers, that is, to immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other uprooted people in the United States and around the world. CWS/IRP resettles about 8,000 refugees and entrants in the United States each year, and also helps meet the needs of people in protracted refugee situations and refugees returning home.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Migration and Refugee Services carries out the commitment of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve and advocate for refugees, asylees, and other forced migrants, immigrants, and other people on the move.  Special concern is given to the most vulnerable among these populations, such as, but not limited to, minors unaccompanied by parents or adult guardians and the victims of human trafficking.  This commitment is rooted in the Gospel mandate that every person is to be welcomed by the disciple as if he or she were Christ Himself and in the right of every human being to pursue, without constraint, the call to holiness.
Migration and Refugee Services contributes to this commitment by:  Assisting the bishops in the development and advocacy of policy positions at the national and international levels that address the needs and conditions of these populations.
Engaging in educational efforts designed to influence public, particularly Catholic, attitudes toward these populations and to create a welcoming and supportive Church in the United States.  Anticipating, providing, and arranging critical services to these populations in collaboration with government, Catholic partners, and other allied organizations.

Advocacy Groups
National Immigration Forum
Established in 1982, the National Immigration Forum is the nation’s premier immigrant rights organization. The Forum is dedicated to embracing and upholding America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants. The Forum advocates and builds public support for public policies that welcome immigrants and refugees and are fair to and supportive of newcomers to our country.

The Protection and Refugee Affairs unit, a component of the Humanitarian Policy and Practice Unit, works to improve and advance protection policies and practices in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDPs) settings and within broader migration movements, focusing on integrating policy and guidelines into operational aspects of humanitarian assistance; addressing the needs of the most vulnerable; and exploring new avenues for enhancing protection in the field.

http://hrw.org/ and http://hrw.org/doc/?t=refugees&document_limit=0,2
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.  We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.  We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.  We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law.  We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.

Refugee International
Refugees International generates lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people around the world and works to end the conditions that create displacement.

Amnesty USA
Amnesty International USA’s Refugee Program advocates for the rights of asylum-seekers in the United States, and for the humane and dignified treatment of refugees and migrants worldwide.

More links:
Human Rights Education Associates
Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) is an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies.

International Crisis Group

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Books on International Issues Related to Refugees

This is a list of books on international issues that relate to international refugees and poverty.  If there are any books that you would like added to this list, please leave a comment or email me (Beki) at

* Available in the DeKalb County Public Library System
^ Available in the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System
+ I requested it to be added to the DeKalb County Library system
# Not in either library
Staff recommended

Books on Refugees:
^*The State of the World’s Refugees: Human Displacement in the New
Millenium 2006 – by UNHCR

# Feminism Without Borders – Chandra Talpade Mohanty
^*We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families-
Stories from Rwanda – Philip Gourevitch

^*They poured fire on us from the sky: the true story of three lost boys from
Sudan – Alephonsion Deng

# What is the What – David Eggers
^*The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American
Community – Mary Phipher
# Refugees in a Global Era – Philip Marfleet
^ Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to
Harvard – Maw Asgedom
* The Lost Boys of Sudan: an American Story of the Refugee Experience – Mark
# Outcasts United: A Refugee Soccer Team, an American Town – Warren St. John
# Mohammed’s Journey (Refugee Diary) – Anthony Robinson, Annemarie Young,
and June Allan
# Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War
(Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America) – Carl J. Bon Tempo
* One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War (P.S.) – Charles London
# Rebuilding Religious Experience – Vietnamese Refugees in America – Linh
# The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away – Abdi Roble, et al.
* Aman: The story of a Somali Girl – Virginia Lee
^*Operation Pedro Pan: The Untold Exodus of 14,048 Cuban Children – Yvonne
^ Somalia—The Untold Story: The War through the Eyes of Somali Women –
Judith Gardner
* Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda – J.P. Stassen

Books on Development & Poverty Issues:
^*The End of Poverty – Jeffrey Sachs
^*White Man’s Burden – William Easterly
^ The Bottom Billion – Paul Collier
^*“A Problem from Hell”: America and the age of Genocide – Samantha

+#Development as Freedom – Amartya Sen
+#Free Trade For All: How Trade Can Aid Development – Joseph Stiglitz
^*Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Muhammad Yunus
^ The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits
– CK Prahalad
^*The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some so Poor
– David S. Landes
^*The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working – Robert Calderisi
^*Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor –
Paul Farmer

Books on economic globalization and their effects on people and economic systems:
a non-partisan list of books with conflicting ideas on globalization and its effects on people, culture, the environment and economies

* Globalization and Its Discontents – Joseph Stiglitz
^ Making Globalization Work – Joseph Stiglitz
* The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman
^ In Defense of Globalization – Jagdish Bhagwati
^*The Lexus and the Olive Tree – Thomas Friedman
^ Why Globalization works – Martin Wolf
^*World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred
and Global Instability – Amy Chua

+^The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the
Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade – Pieta Rivoli
^ Prosperity and Violence: The Political Economy of Development – Robert
H. Bates
^ Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in an Age of Diminished
Expectations – Paul Krugman
# Pop Internationalism – Paul Krugman

International Issues:
^*The Good Society: The Humane Agenda – John Galbraith
# Peace First: A New Model to End War – Uri Savir

For Educators:
+#Understanding Your Refugee and Immigrant Students: An Educational, Cultural and Linguistic Guide – Jeffra JoAnn Flaitz

For Children:
* Four Feet, Two Sandals – Karen Williams
^ Brothers in Hope: the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan – Mary Williams

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