Refugees

In 1980, soon after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, Zubair Popal fled the country with his wife, Shamim, two young sons and infant daughter.

"There was no hope for me to stay," he recalls. "I thought about the future of my kids. And in those days when the Soviet Union went to a country and invaded that country, they never left."

Maranie Staab / Facebook

Pictures of young refugees from the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq have been defaced with spray paint at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Journalist Maranie Staab, of Pittsburgh, is currently in Iraq photographing the ongoing crisis there in Mosul. She posted a photo of the defaced images and a message for the vandal or vandals on Facebook: "If the person that did this happens to see this, I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you about these kids."

The two defaced pictures showed refugee children. The vandals X-ed out their faces with spray paint.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump has signed a revised executive order, barring travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program. It's similar to the president's January order that was blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But this latest order leaves Iraq off the list of barred countries. The White House cites more cooperation with the Iraqi government in vetting people who apply for U.S. visas. The latest order also specifically states that it does not apply to legal permanent U.S. residents or current visa holders.

Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety / AP

Four men have now been arrested in the robbery and fatal beating of a Somali immigrant cab driver.

Christen Glenn, 18, of Greensburg, and Daniel Russell, 19, of Youngstown, Ohio, were arrested Sunday in Youngstown, Pittsburgh police said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Recently, several of Renee Christman’s English as a second language students have asked her what the word “illegal” means.

Many of her students at Paynter Elementary School in Baldwin are refugees and she said they’re aware of President Donald Trump’s immigration orders and that their parents are concerned. Her students collectively speak eight languages and about 15 to 20 different languages are spoken in the Baldwin-Whitehall school district.

Thousands Protest Trump Immigration Orders At Philly Airport

Jan 30, 2017
Paige Pfleger / WHYY

An estimated 5,000 protesters filled the sidewalks and roadways outside of Philadelphia International Airport Sunday to denounce President Donald Trump's executive actions restricting entry into the country. It was the second straight night demonstrators gathered at the airport demanding that Trump lift his ban on immigration into the United States from several Muslim-majority countries.

Chanting "no hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here," the droves of protesters assembled peacefully down a long stretch of road outside Terminal B. 

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

Walk around the offices of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, and you'll find plans to do good behind every door. There's a food bank, a land bank, a work skills class, and programs to assist with affordable housing.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

In the small, grassy field at Schenley plaza, a group of middle school students were greeted among a cluster of makeshift tents and handed IDs. One was for a 12-year-old from the Syrian Arab Republic, it was stamped with the word “refugee.”

It was part of "Forced From Home," an outdoor exhibition taking place through Monday. It’s a free guided experience into the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people.

Decision Days Away In Lancaster Refugee Case

Aug 23, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF

 

Five full days of testimony wrapped up Monday in the lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster.

The case claims six student refugees were denied enrollment altogether or placed at Phoenix Academy, a magnet school with an accelerated credit program where they allegedly didn't get adequate support learning English.

They’re seeking admission to Lancaster’s mainstream McCaskey High School.

Trial Starts Over Refugee Student Enrollment In Lancaster

Aug 18, 2016
Ed Zurga / AP

 

As many as 700 refugees are resettled each year in Lancaster, a high number for the city's population.

Four of them are spending today in court, where they'll testify in a lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster.

Lawsuit Brewing Over Refugee Education In Lancaster

Jul 19, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP

 

About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

At first it seems like a typical music video.

A big, calm-looking bearded man sits in a posh armchair and sings in an emotion-choked baritone, "I'm running, I'm running, I'm running."

He's Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter.

A little bit into the song, a rapper joins in: "I fight through the night just to find a stronger day."

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers face additional challenges once they get to the United States. A panel of refugee experts, hosted by the Peduto administration’s Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative, addressed those issues Wednesday.

Beni Dedieu Luzau said for many refugees or asylum seekers, being LGBTQI means scrutiny and isolation from their own community, and in some communities could even mean death. He said they come to the U.S. for freedom, but then fear for survival if they come out.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

When students Bishal Rai, Arpun Khadka and Gabriel Sahij walk into Concord Elementary School in Carrick, a welcome sign greets them in English, Spanish and Nepali. 

Freedom House / Flickr

A religious group representing Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches in southwestern Pennsylvania urged lawmakers to accept Syrian refugees on Monday, offering their own congregations as way points for resettlement.

The Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania echoed recent sentiments by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in their support of foreign aid.

“It’s our responsibility as people of faith to respond,” CASP Executive Minister Liddy Barlow said.

Can A Combined Global Effort Stop ISIS?

Nov 23, 2015
Flickr

In the wake of the attack on Paris that left 130 dead, many are concerned that ISIS has shifted its focus toward global aggression rather than the insurgency in Iraq and Syria.  University of Pittsburgh associate professor and terrorism expert Michael Kenney has analyzed the situation in the Middle East and addressed the potential effectiveness of a global coalition fighting ISIS.

Lionel Cironneau / AP

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and several American states saying they will not accept Syrian refugees, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto remained steadfast in keeping the city open to those fleeing their homeland. 

When Pittsburgh's Bill Peduto joined the mayors of 17 other cities in signing a letter to President Barack Obama last month that offers to harbor more Syrian refugees in the United States, he defended that welcome as "just the right thing to do."

Market Square Welcomes World Refugee Day

Jun 19, 2015

Pittsburgh marks World Refugee Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in Market Square with musical performances, food and services for local refugees.

Agencies resettle about 500 refugees every year in the Pittsburgh area, an upward trend from 10 years ago. Most hail from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia and Iraq.

The city has become a hub for secondary migration for refugees initially placed in other areas who move to the Steel City for family, vibrant ethnic communities or employment opportunities. About a thousand secondary migrants have moved here every year since 2011.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Bishnu Timsina and Puspa Nepal are from Bhutan, but they spent much of their lives in refugee camps in Nepal.

This is because the Bhutanese government found those with Nepali origin a threat to political order and decided to act on that “risk” in the late 1980s.

“(The) government started putting them into jail, raping the young girls and women, beating family members,” Bishnu said. “And they were also asked to sign volunteer migration forms by the government of Bhutan and they were told that you have to leave the country.”

How Treating Trauma in Refugees Has Evolved

Mar 14, 2014

Dr. Richard Mollica, the director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at Massachusetts General Hospital, has spent the last three decades working with refugees. This week, he was in Pittsburgh for a conference and sat down to speak about refugees and trauma with 90.5 WESA’s Erika Beras. This is part of the interview.

On how the work he has done has changed since the early '80s:

On Monday afternoon, a chartered bus wound its way through the steep, narrow roads of the South Hills on its way to Baldwin High School.

On board were employees of HIAS, an agency that works with the State Department in bringing refugees to the United States. HIAS works with Jewish Family and Children’s Services, one of four resettlement agencies in the Pittsburgh area.

Pittsburgh has become a hub for refugees. This week HIAS is holding its national conference here, and among the activities are visits to where refugees live, work — and go to school.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

In 2012, more that 58,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. A couple thousand of them came to Pennsylvania. Many of these refugees come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Others feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time. 

Bhutanese Refugees Face a High Suicide Rate

Jan 29, 2014

At a conference held in Pittsburgh last fall, several dozen men from around the United States discussed a disturbing trend in their community: the high suicide rate and prevalence of depression among Bhutanese-Nepali refugees.

"People are looking for resources where they can go to curb this mental health issue," said Buddha Mani Dhakal, editor of the Bhutan News Service.

Icars / flickr

Refugees to the region face a number of challenges, unfamiliarity with a different language is even more complicated when trying to obtain health care.

90.5 WESA Behavioral Health Reporter Erika Beras is embarking on a month-long series on the challenges refugees face in the Pittsburgh area to obtain health care. She says her interest in the topic was sparked by the high population of refugees in Pittsburgh. 

Courtesy photo

On a Sunday morning last December, nearly a hundred people gathered in a West End church to dedicate their prayers to Claudine Mukankindi, a young woman who came to the United States as a Congolese refugee.

In December 2012, a year earlier, she died of a heart attack at age 36.

In a pew near the front was Adeline Kihonia. Dancing and chanting in worship, she had tears in her eyes.

"She was like a part of my family," Kihonia said. "When she passed away, it was like I lost a sister, a good sister."