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    Fraud Claims Halt Refugee Program

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    Somalienne nationalista
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    Fraud Claims Halt Refugee Program

    Post  Somalienne nationalista on Sat Nov 29, 2008 10:57 am

    Salaam,

    Not a shocking stand, what stunned me the most is the bigoted commentary on this article. These people talk as if they own the country. We all know through history Europeans invaded this country and annexed it from the Natives. Now they claim its all theirs even the second-European generation. This country was build by immigrants from third world countries now they are referring to them "flowing trash bags."

    From the outset, they knew all the frauds being committed. Why all of a sudden America wakes up from its dreams and decides to do something? The law is the law and should be respected and not violated at all times Right?. Why do they want abide by the books abruptly? hmmm... any light bulb went off yet?

    These narrow-minded bigoted individuals calling themselves "Patriotic" and telling us to go back to where we came from don't realize that their proud nation preposterous policies are stifling our dear country to progress. When we've experienced a 6 month of stability and retreat from 17years of chaos in Somalia about two years ago, they were the first to rush in and say that we are "Islamist" "terrorist in the making" "Al-Qa'eda affiliates" and send the Ethiopian troops to fight the American "war on terror." Many western countries including U.K. agreed that UIC is the solution to a unified Somalia. I am not advocating for UIC and I am well aware of their mistakes but please safe yourself a breath and think of the positives they brought to our beloved country within a short span of time.

    Islam if implemented right, is proven to be the only resolution to reunify Muslims anywhere.

    I leave you at this hoping that greater Somalia is incorporated in your agenda for tomorrow.


    Fraud claims halt refugee program

    By KEVIN DIAZ and MITCH ANDERSON, Star Tribune staff writers

    November 28, 2008

    WASHINGTON - For three years, Leylo Mohamud has been working to get her family out of Somalia, a land engulfed in civil war for much of the past two decades.

    Her prospects dimmed significantly last month.

    "It is so hard, it breaks my heart," said Mohamud, who lives in the Twin Cities. "I cannot support them and they're going to die without food. I want to bring them here, but I cannot."

    Alleging widespread fraud, the State Department has suspended a refugee program that has brought tens of thousands of people from Somalia and other African nations to the United States, many of them to Minnesota.

    The move has alarmed leaders in the Twin Cities' Somali and Liberian communities, who say it is preventing the reunification of untold numbers of immigrant families, many of them trapped in squalid refugee camps.

    But government officials say the program's flaws must be corrected before it can be resumed.

    The Twin Cities is among the largest centers of Somali and Liberian resettlement in the nation, many of them arriving on Priority Three (P-3) visas, part of a humanitarian program to reunify families.

    But recent DNA pilot tests conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, show that as many as 80 percent of applicants under the program could not confirm their family status -- either they refused the tests, or the test results were negative for any biological relationship.

    "Most of the fraud involved falsely claimed parent-child relationships," said Bill Wright, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

    What that means for the tens of thousands of African immigrants who have already settled in Minnesota under the P-3 program is unclear.

    "We're still considering how to deal with them," Wright said. "But I can say this: We can't assume that the refugees we've admitted committed fraud, just based on the pilot test results alone."

    36,000 have been admitted

    Over the past five years, about 36,000 people have been admitted under the program, with about a third of them resettling in Minnesota. The P-3 program stopped taking applications on Oct. 22.

    But few immigrants have trickled in since May, when the State Department halted resettlement processing for those who had already applied under the P-3 program in Africa, where about 95 percent of the P-3 refugees originate.

    "Until now, it's been the primary avenue for immigration," said Kerper Dwanyen, president of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota. "It's really important to people who left family members behind."

    Immigrant groups in the Twin Cities acknowledge that there is occasional fraud -- in some cases, money changes hands to claim sponsorship of supposed family members. But they say it is unfair to keep out those who can document they aren't lying.

    "You have a huge number of desperate refugees who are stuck in the middle of nowhere," said Omar Jamal, president of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in the Twin Cities. "They're looking for assistance from the United States. It's very sad."

    Further complicating the DNA testing process are cultural differences between the American and Somali ideas of family, said Twin Cities Muslim leader Hassan Mohamud, an immigration law advocate at the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis.

    "In America here, you have first cousins and second cousins, but back home, your cousin is like as close as your brother," he said. "You do [for them] whatever you would for your brother."

    And although it is not unusual for Somalis to raise orphans as their own in the war-torn country, there is no formal adoption system because it is not recognized by Islamic law, Mohamud said, making such cases nearly impossible to authenticate.

    Tests started in February

    State Department officials say fraud is common in connection with many visa programs. But for years, the P-3 program has experienced "a steady drumbeat of allegations," according to an official familiar with the program who is not authorized to comment on the record.

    Following up on the allegations, the State Department initially tested 500 East African refugees in February. Most of them were Somalis and Ethiopians living in refugee camps in Nairobi. After DNA tests confirmed high rates of fraud, the testing was expanded to Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia and Ivory Coast. But most of the approximately 3,000 refugees tested were from Somalia, Ethiopia and Liberia, which all have large immigrant communities in the Twin Cities.

    The move to shut down the program came with no fanfare or warning, in part not to alert potential cheaters.

    Angela Fox, an immigration case worker at a refugee resettlement program with Catholic Charities in St. Paul, said she was frustrated by the lack of warning her organization received before the government suspended the P-3 program.

    "None of the details were really clearly communicated to anyone in the process," Fox said, adding that she found out about the suspension through Minnesota immigrants who were told by relatives in Africa.

    State Department officials, meanwhile, say they can't reopen the program until they ensure that it works. No date has been set.

    "We have to figure out what the next step is," said Todd Pierce, a spokesman for the department's Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration. "We're obligated to make sure it works the way it was supposed to work."

    The State Department and Department of Homeland Security are working together to devise new verification procedures. One proposal would involve more widespread DNA testing. But some officials worry that it could add significantly to the program's cost.

    Jamal, who has faced his own legal problems with immigration officials -- he was once found guilty of making false statements to enter the U.S. -- says that the government's concerns are overblown.

    "I cannot deny there may be some fraud," he said. "But the policy of shutting the whole program down will hurt huge numbers of innocent, law-abiding people who are in desperate conditions in refugee camps."

    Jamal understands that some of the government's concern derives from Somalia's status as a state without a functioning government, riven by warring groups of clans and Islamic militias, some with ties to Al-Qaida.

    He, too, has heard of sponsorships being sold to fictitious family members, sometimes for as much as $10,000. But for most, he said, "they are innocent people falling victim."

    Leylo Mohamud, 31, a part-time worker at Wal-Mart who has multiple sclerosis, says she awaits the day when she can be reunited with her family and husband.

    But for now, when that day may come remains uncertain.

    Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753 Mitch Anderson • 202-408-2723

    © 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

    http://www.startribune.com/local/35240159.html

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