Kenya + 1 more

Somalia: Bantu refugees being prepared for life in the US

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 6 February (IRIN) - The first Somali Bantu refugees will probably reach the United States this spring after the US agreed to take them in, according to a report released by the US State Department on Wednesday.
The 12,000 or so refugees under consideration for admission to the US have been in refugee camps in Kenya for over 10 years. Most of them were moved from the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya to Kakuma in the northwest between June and September last year, Sasha Chanoff, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told IRIN on Thursday.

The refugees have already begun the process that will see them into the US. "US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) officers had already started interviewing them from September up to the end of November last year, said Chanoff, noting that the officers had since taken a break, but would resume in March.

"IOM is conducting ongoing cultural orientation classes and the medical examinations," he added. The cultural classes are meant to prepare the refugees for life in the US.

Once they arrive in the US, "they will be placed in in extended family groups in up to 50 cities and towns across the US throughout 2003 and 2004", the State Department report said. Each family would then be assigned to one of 10 voluntary agencies, which would "assist with basic immediate needs such as housing, furniture, clothing, food, and referrals to employment".

These agencies are Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Programs, Immigration and Refugee Services of America, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief Refugee Services.

Most of the Somali Bantu refugees are the descendants of slaves taken from Tanzania and northern Mozambique to the southern Somali coast in the late 19th century.


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