June 2012

Research. Rethink. Resolve.

June 2012 Newsletter

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Helping Young Refugees Find Work

"I really love learning, and my dreams are to attend a school and brighten my future, because it is only education that can set you free from hunger and starvation," a 22-year-old refugee in Nairobi, Kenya, told Senior Program Officer Josh Chaffin. "I am not working and getting any job is very difficult."

Josh recently travelled to Nairobi to assess the prospects that young refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Rwanda have for finding work and building livelihoods for themselves. With help from the International Rescue Committee, Josh and a research team of local college graduates spoke to 90 young women and men, ages 15 to 24, and to all of the organizations that currently provide services to young refugees to help them improve their economic status. While Kenya does permit refugees to attend school, most of the refugee youth that the team met said they could not afford the fees and didn’t go to school. And, the majority interviewed said they are either inactive or work only intermittently in low-paying jobs.

The trip was the second in a three-city research project funded by the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. An upcoming report will explore the complexities of refugees living and trying to work in Nairobi.



Survey on Livelihoods and Gender-based Violence

Do you work in the humanitarian field? If so, please take a few minutes to complete this survey related to improving the livelihood options for displaced people and reducing gender-based violence. This will allow us to better serve the international humanitarian community with targeted and useful resources. It will only take 5 minutes. Thank you!


WRC Applauds Move to Protect Detained Immigrants from Rape and Assault

Nearly 10 years ago, Congress passed, in a bipartisan vote, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). This legislation called for a zero-tolerance approach to sexual assault and rape in any kind of confinement in the United States. In a critical development, the Obama Administration announced in May that the long-awaited PREA protections should extend to adult and children immigrants who are detained in U.S. facilities. For years the Women's Refugee Commission has strongly advocated for the application of PREA regulations to adult immigration detention facilities as well as those holding immigrant children. We commend the Administration’s recognition that strong standards against sexual assault should apply to all people who are confined and call for the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Homeland Security to act quickly and enforce better protections. Read more.


International Violence Against Women Act Introduced

A startling figure: an estimated one out of three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence or abuse in her lifetime. The House of Representatives recently introduced legislation to address this global epidemic and make prevention of violence against women and girls a priority in U.S. foreign policy and international aid programs.

Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Howard Berman (D-CA) reintroduced the International Violence Against Women Act on June 7. The bill provides for the creation of a comprehensive, five-year strategy to combat violence against women and girls abroad. It emphasizes the importance of U.S. programs that prevent violence and help survivors, support local in-country efforts to change public attitudes and promote access to economic opportunity and education. Importantly, it also calls for improving the U.S. response to violence against women in crisis-affected areas. The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly supports passage of the bill. Take action and write your representative today in support of this critical legislation.


House Bill on Domestic Violence Against Women Weakens Protections for Abused Immigrants

Meanwhile, in a setback for abused immigrant women in the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 in May, a version of the reauthorization of the domestic Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that weakens protections that were previously included in the legislation. Under VAWA, which was first passed in 1994, immigrants with abusive spouses can self-petition for a green card, thus removing their dependence on an abusive spouse for legal status. VAWA also created visas for victims of crimes who cooperate with the authorities to investigate the crimes. But H.R. 4970 curtails both of these measures, unlike the Senate’s bipartisan bill (S. 1925), which would continue VAWA’s important protections and make modest improvements. The Women’s Refugee Commission calls on President Obama to veto the new version of VAWA unless the punitive provisions included in H.R. 4970 are removed. “VAWA is an important piece of legislation that deserves to be free from partisan battles over immigration and women’s issues,” said Detention and Asylum Program Director Michelle Brané. Read more.


Former WRC Board Member Receives Coveted U.S. State Department Honor

Hazel M. Reitz was awarded the Director-General’s Cup for the Civil Service in recognition of her distinguished service in promoting the well-being of refugees, particularly women and children, around the globe. A Women’s Refugee Commission board member for six years, Hazel served in the British Foreign Service in London before joining the U.S. State Department and working on refugee programs, including those assisting Darfur refugees in Chad. She has previously received the State Department's Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs. Everybody at the Women’s Refugee Commission congratulates Hazel on her unstinting work to improve the lives of refugee and internally displaced women and children worldwide!


In the News

Michele Brané, Director, Detention and Asylum Program, and Senior Program Officer Jennifer Podkul co-authored a blog titled “Getting Away With Murder at the Border” in the Huffington Post.

Michele Brané was featured in a Univision Piece (in Spanish) about detained immigrant parents being separated from their children. Watch: Part I & Part II.

Katharina Obser, Program Specialist, Detention and Asylum Program, published a Huffington Post blog, “An Overdue Step in Protecting Detained Immigrants From Rape and Sexual Assault, But More Work Remains.”