Photo Credit: Kinyanjui Migwe (Community Festival for refugee families on World Refugee Day)
AFSC responds to a refugee resettlement crisis in Dayton, Ohio
by Karen Light
This past January, rumors were circulating that the boarded-up house adjacent to the AFSC-Dayton office was being occupied by immigrants. Staff, however, saw no signs of life until the beginning of spring when Migwe Kimemia, the Peace & Immigration Program Director, spotted children playing outside.
Migwe spoke with them in Swahili and learned that the rumors were true: a family of African refugees, including nine children, was, in fact, living there. The stove was broken and there was a gas leak. They were in this dangerous situation because they felt powerless and didn’t know their rights.
“It was shocking for me to discover that a government-funded refugee resettlement program can debase human rights and dignity before my own eyes!” Migwe says.Grim circumstances
Under the U.S. refugee resettlement policy, refugees have a mere eight months to become self-sufficient, after which all aid is withdrawn. With no skills and little guidance on how to navigate the system, these refugees find themselves dropping out of school, in homeless shelters, or under the grip of slum landlords, jobless, destitute, scared, and isolated.
AFSC-Dayton is working to change this by connecting the refugees with one another and helping them create a community.