Monday, December 27, 2010

African Immigrants in Minnesota Urge to Seek US Citizenship

(Dec 27, 2010) By: Omari Jackson

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. December 27, 2010: African immigrants and refugees have been asked to seek citizenship, to avoid problems that are often tied to one’s immigration status.

At the end of a one-day immigration informational session held on Friday Dec. 10, in Brooklyn Center, Minn., the head of immigration practice at the Cundy and Martin law firm, Vincent Martin, told attendees to remember that plea agreements in any court system, “affect your immigration status in some ways.”

He told them, “instead of guessing about the laws, it’s always good to check in with immigration attorneys.”

Organized by the African Immigrant Services, also called AIS, in collaboration with the Miracle Redemption Center International, the session brought together nearly 240 African immigrants who braved the inclement weather.

Martin discussed immigration policies and laws, including how to petition for family members, how to seek asylum, as well as permanent residency status and citizenship processes and applications.

Martin represents individuals and employers, families seeking to sponsor other family members, and those facing deportation.

Also contributing, Advocates for Human Rights’ director of advocacy, Michelle Garnett-McKenzie, encouraged African immigrants to take advantage of legal resources to avoid problems in the future.

From experience, she said, some of the problems immigrants and refugees encounter could easily be resolved if they would seek appropriate resources and attend informational sessions.

Garnett-McKenzie has worked extensively with refugee and immigrant groups. She joined The Advocates in 1999 as a staff attorney representing asylum seekers and immigration detainees and, in 2003, became the Refugee and Immigrant Program Director, managing the asylum, detention, and walk-in clinic projects.

By nearly all accounts, the town-hall-style event was warmly received, as participants and beneficiaries expressed their appreciation and hoped that such a useful venture would be held often.

“The session was one of the best events I’ve seen in the African community. AIS did a great job”, said Duanna Siryon, founder of Pro-USA, an African immigrant youth sports development non-profit group in the Twin Cities.

Saran Daramy, an African immigrant business owner who came to get information to help her cousin, said, “It was educational. A wide range of topics was covered. I think we should have more of it, to help our community.”

“Some of our African folks need guidance when it comes to immigration issues. But again, they just don’t know where to get basic information”, explained Abu Massaley, an African-born immigrant. “This event was helpful, because it provided an opportunity for them to understand what was at stake regarding immigration laws. I also think there is a need for AIS to do one-on-one session, where folks will be able to ask some very personal questions.”

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Cairbeh Dahn, outreach coordinator of AIS. “We exceeded our initial expectation, especially in terms of attendance and the level of participation.”

AIS Board chairman, Momodu Kemokai said, “Our goal is four sessions a year, serving about 800 African immigrants and refugees. And we are proud of the initial impact.”

AIS believes that these sessions are an important piece in a larger strategy to address a wide range of problems tied to immigration status.

“ When African immigrants and refugees face problems related to their legal or immigration status, their housing, health, job, education and other aspects of their lives are also affected”, said Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of AIS.” That is why everybody wins when African immigrants and refugees gain greater access to a wide range of relevant legal resources.”

He said the just concluded session is the first, “of the journey,” his organization has embarked upon, and appealed to African immigrants and refugees to volunteer and participate in programs and services that are critical to their aspirations.

Noble Fahnbulleh, AIS’ volunteer and technology coordinator, said, “Linking African immigrants and refugees to resources is critical to our work at AIS.”

He meanwhile requested participants to provide AIS with feedback and suggestions on how to make future sessions more effective.

Earlier, Rev. Vandyke Noah of the Redemption Center, expressed appreciation for the session, because, “our people need this kind of opportunity to address their doubts and concerns.”

Established in 2005 and reactivated in 2009, AIS works to empower African immigrants and refugees to integrate into mainstream communities and to increase their participation in civic life.

AIS is at

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In

Published: December 21, 2010

SOUMOUNI, Mali — The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya's leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave.

"They told us this would be the last rainy season for us to cultivate our fields; after that, they will level all the houses and take the land," said Mama Keita, 73, the leader of this village veiled behind dense, thorny scrubland. "We were told that Qaddafi owns this land."

Across Africa and the developing world, a new global land rush is gobbling up large expanses of arable land. Despite their ageless traditions, stunned villagers are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.

Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank say the practice, if done equitably, could help feed the growing global population by introducing large-scale commercial farming to places without it.

But others condemn the deals as neocolonial land grabs that destroy villages, uproot tens of thousands of farmers and create a volatile mass of landless poor. Making matters worse, they contend, much of the food is bound for wealthier nations.

"The food security of the country concerned must be first and foremost in everybody's mind," said Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, now working on the issue of African agriculture. "Otherwise it is straightforward exploitation and it won't work. We have seen a scramble for Africa before. I don't think we want to see a second scramble of that kind."

A World Bank study released in September tallied farmland deals covering at least 110 million acres — the size of California and West Virginia combined — announced during the first 11 months of 2009 alone. More than 70 percent of those deals were for land in Africa, with Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia among those nations transferring millions of acres to investors.

Before 2008, the global average for such deals was less than 10 million acres per year, the report said. But the food crisis that spring, which set off riots in at least a dozen countries, prompted the spree. The prospect of future scarcity attracted both wealthy governments lacking the arable land needed to feed their own people and hedge funds drawn to a dwindling commodity.

"You see interest in land acquisition continuing at a very high level," said Klaus Deininger, the World Bank economist who wrote the report, taking many figures from a Web site run by Grain, an advocacy organization, because governments would not reveal the agreements. "Clearly, this is not over."

The report, while generally supportive of the investments, detailed mixed results. Foreign aid for agriculture has dwindled from about 20 percent of all aid in 1980 to about 5 percent now, creating a need for other investment to bolster production.

But many investments appear to be pure speculation that leaves land fallow, the report found. Farmers have been displaced without compensation, land has been leased well below value, those evicted end up encroaching on parkland and the new ventures have created far fewer jobs than promised, it said.

The breathtaking scope of some deals galvanizes opponents. In Madagascar, a deal that would have handed over almost half the country's arable land to a South Korean conglomerate helped crystallize opposition to an already unpopular president and contributed to his overthrow in 2009.

People have been pushed off land in countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Zambia. It is not even uncommon for investors to arrive on land that was supposedly empty. In Mozambique, one investment company discovered an entire village with its own post office on what had been described as vacant land, said Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations food rapporteur.

In Mali, about three million acres along the Niger River and its inland delta are controlled by a state-run trust called the Office du Niger. In nearly 80 years, only 200,000 acres of the land have been irrigated, so the government considers new investors a boon.

"Even if you gave the population there the land, they do not have the means to develop it, nor does the state," said Abou Sow, the executive director of Office du Niger.

He listed countries whose governments or private sectors have already made investments or expressed interest: China and South Africa in sugar cane; Libya and Saudi Arabia in rice; and Canada, Belgium, France, South Korea, India, the Netherlands and multinational organizations like the West African Development Bank.

In all, Mr. Sow said about 60 deals covered at least 600,000 acres in Mali, although some organizations said more than 1.5 million acres had been committed. He argued that the bulk of the investors were Malians growing food for the domestic market. But he acknowledged that outside investors like the Libyans, who are leasing 250,000 acres here, are expected to ship their rice, beef and other agricultural products home.

"What advantage would they gain by investing in Mali if they could not even take their own production?" Mr. Sow said.

As with many of the deals, the money Mali might earn from the leases remains murky. The agreement signed with the Libyans grants them the land for at least 50 years simply in exchange for developing it.

"The Libyans want to produce rice for Libyans, not for Malians," said Mamadou Goita, the director of a nonprofit research organization in Mali. He and other opponents contend that the government is privatizing a scarce national resource without improving the domestic food supply, and that politics, not economics, are driving events because Mali wants to improve ties with Libya and others.

The huge tracts granted to private investors are many years from production. But officials noted that Libya already spent more than $50 million building a 24-mile canal and road, constructed by a Chinese company, benefiting local villages.

Every farmer affected, Mr. Sow added, including as many as 20,000 affected by the Libyan project, will receive compensation. "If they lose a single tree, we will pay them the value of that tree," he said.

But anger and distrust run high. In a rally last month, hundreds of farmers demanded that the government halt such deals until they get a voice. Several said that they had been beaten and jailed by soldiers, but that they were ready to die to keep their land.

"The famine will start very soon," shouted Ibrahima Coulibaly, the head of the coordinating committee for farmer organizations in Mali. "If people do not stand up for their rights, they will lose everything!"

"Ante!" members of the crowd shouted in Bamanankan, the local language. "We refuse!"

Kassoum Denon, the regional head for the Office du Niger, accused the Malian opponents of being paid by Western groups that are ideologically opposed to large-scale farming.

"We are responsible for developing Mali," he said. "If the civil society does not agree with the way we are doing it, they can go jump in a lake."

The looming problem, experts noted, is that Mali remains an agrarian society. Kicking farmers off the land with no alternative livelihood risks flooding the capital, Bamako, with unemployed, rootless people who could become a political problem.

"The land is a natural resource that 70 percent of the population uses to survive," said Kalfa Sanogo, an economist at the United Nations Development Program in Mali. "You cannot just push 70 percent of the population off the land, nor can you say they can just become agriculture workers." In a different approach, a $224 million American project will help about 800 Malian farmers each acquire title to 12 acres of newly cleared land, protecting them against being kicked off.

Jon C. Anderson, the project director, argued that no country has developed economically with a large percentage of its population on farms. Small farmers with titles will either succeed or have to sell the land to finance another life, he said, though critics have said villagers will still be displaced.

"We want a revolutionized relationship between the farmer and the state, one where the farmer is more in charge," Mr. Anderson said.

Soumouni sits about 20 miles from the nearest road, with wandering cattle herders in their distinctive pointed straw hats offering directions like, "Bear right at the termite mound with the hole in it."

Sekou Traoré, 69, a village elder, was dumbfounded when government officials said last year that Libya now controlled his land and began measuring the fields. He had always considered it his own, passed down from grandfather to father to son.

"All we want before they break our houses and take our fields is for them to show us the new houses where we will live, and the new fields where we will work," he said at the rally last month.

"We are all so afraid," he said of the village's 2,229 residents. "We will be the victims of this situation, we are sure of that."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Haitians in U.S. Brace for Deportations to Resume

December 19, 2010

he Obama administration has been quietly moving to resume deportations of Haitians for the first time since the earthquake last January. But in New York's Haitian diaspora, the reaction has been far from muted, including frustration and fear among immigrants and anger from their advocates, who say that an influx of deportees will only add to the country's woes.

Haiti is racked today by a cholera epidemic and political turmoil, as well as the tortuously slow reconstruction.

"I don't think Haiti can handle more challenges than what it has right now," said Mathieu Eugene, a Haitian-American member of the New York City Council. "The earthquake, the cholera, the election — everything's upside down in Haiti."

Federal officials suspended deportations to Haiti immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake. In addition, a special immigration status, sometimes granted to foreigners who are unable to return safely to their home countries because of armed conflict or natural disasters, was extended to Haitians in the United States, allowing them to remain temporarily and work. Many Haitians, including some with criminal convictions, were also released from detention centers across the country.

But in recent weeks, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has begun rounding up Haitian immigrants again, including some who had been released earlier this year, immigration lawyers said. On Dec. 10, the agency disclosed, in response to questions from The Associated Press, that it would resume deportations by mid-January.

Immigration officials said they would deport only Haitians who had been convicted of crimes and had finished serving their sentences.

Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement last week that the agency was deciding whom to deport in a manner "consistent with our domestic immigration enforcement priorities," but did not elaborate. The Obama administration has said it is focusing immigration enforcement efforts on catching and deporting immigrants who have been convicted of the most serious crimes or who pose a threat to national security.

Haitians who have been granted the special immigration status, known as temporary protected status, will continue to be shielded from deportation, officials said. The protection was granted for 18 months and is set to expire in mid-July; Haitians who have committed felonies or at least two misdemeanors were not eligible for the program.

Immigration officials did not say how many people they planned to send back to Haiti when deportations resume next month, but they revealed last week that 351 Haitians were in detention.

Mr. Eugene and other Haitian community leaders in New York said that despite the limits of the government's plan, the city's Haitians were bracing for a resumption of wider deportations.

"The people in the community are worried because they don't know what the next target population is going to be," Mr. Eugene said.

Ricot Dupuy, the manager of Radio Soleil, a Creole-language station in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said he had been "flooded with calls" about the plans for deportations.

Immigration officials would not say when they planned to resume deportations of noncriminals. The Haitian government has apparently not commented on Washington's decision to resume deportations. The consul general in New York did not respond to phone messages, and the Haitian Embassy did not respond to calls and e-mails.

Nearly a year after the quake, an estimated 1.3 million Haitians are still displaced from their homes. The cholera outbreak has killed more than 2,500 people and hospitalized 58,000 more, according to the Haitian government. And disputes over the preliminary results of the presidential election last month have escalated into violence.

Advocacy groups have been lobbying the Obama administration to postpone the deportations. The Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York, wrote President Obama to say that their resumption would endanger the deportees' lives. The Haitian government often detains criminals deported from abroad, the organization said; because cholera is quickly spreading through that country's detention system, the policy "would end up being a death sentence for many," it said.

An official of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the State Department had been working with Haitian officials "to ensure that the resumption of removals is conducted in a safe, humane manner with minimal disruption to ongoing rebuilding efforts."

Among those who have been rounded up in the past several weeks is a 42-year-old odd-jobs man who was detained last week by immigration officials in Manhattan and was being held on Friday in a jail in Hudson County, N.J., said his lawyer, Rachel Salazar, who asked that her client's name be withheld because she did not want to jeopardize his case.

The man, who immigrated to the United States as a legal permanent resident in 1990 and has a 5-year-old child, was last detained in February because of three past felony convictions, including for assault, petty larceny and attempted robbery, for which he had served time. But he was released in May, during the moratorium on deportations, Ms. Salazar said.

The detainee said he was being held with about 40 other Haitians, the lawyer said, and he had not been told when the government planned to deport him.

Julia Preston and Deborah Sontag contributed reporting. (

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Census Bureau reports 1 in 3 people with Somali ancestry in US lives in Minnesota

ASSOCIATED PRESS | Dec 14, 2010 5:35 PM CST in US

Nearly one in three people with Somali ancestry in the United States now live in the Minnesota, which has the largest concentration in the country, according to government data released Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey found about 25,000 of the 85,700 Somalis in the U.S. live in Minnesota. Ohio, Washington and California also had large populations of Somalis, but the survey data found no more than 10,500 of them in any state except Minnesota.

There, the Somali population is growing, Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said. The 2000 Census pegged it at 11,164.

The proof is on the streets of the Twin Cities, said Hashi Shafi of the Somali Action Alliance in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Public Schools reported 1,345 of the district's students spoke Somali at home during the 2008-2009 school year, and Shafi said the number is growing every year.

He remembers a time when there were only two mosques in Minneapolis _ now he can point to four on one block.

"When you come on Friday, they are all full," he said.

Shafi said Somalis often estimate their own population in Minnesota at about 70,000, but he didn't know what that was based on. He has worked with the Census Bureau to overcome cultural and language barriers to get more Somalis counted.

"People don't know why this is important," he said, noting that government funding is often based on census data.

Gillaspy said the federal estimate, which includes people born in Somalia and their descendants, was in line with the state's, although based on different sources. The information released Tuesday came from five years of surveys, and Gillaspy said it provides the best look at small population groups and small geographic areas since the 2000 Census.

The American Community Survey is sent to about one in 10 households each year. It includes questions on ancestry, national origin and many other traits that are no longer asked about in the census done every 10 years.

The exodus from Somalia began after the Horn of Africa nation fell into lawlessness in 1991. Thousands of Somalis began to settle in the U.S., usually in cities with nonprofit groups that would help them.

In many communities _including Minneapolis, Seattle, San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio _ the population has grown and prospered, with Somali-owned shops and mosques proliferating. Somali translators work in the schools, the children of refugees go on to college and community leaders become public figures.

But there have been worrying signs about the second generation, with reports out of Minnesota of Somali gangs running interstate prostitution rings and investigations of young men going to fight with al-Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia.

Ahmed Sahid, president of Somali Family Services of San Diego, said the local population there was swelling with a "second migration" driven by Somalis leaving cold parts of the United States.

The government estimates there are 5,000 Somalis in the San Diego area, but Sahid said estimates are often wrong, and he thought there were 15,000 to 20,000.

"A lot of people don't know how to report themselves," he said last week. "I don't think the Census will show a true figure of the population."

The population is growing in Seattle, too, with the survey estimating it at about 8,600.

Bernardo Ruiz, manager of community and family partnerships for the Seattle public schools, said four years ago, Somali was the fourth most common foreign language spoken at home by students in the schools. Three years ago, it was third. Now, it's second after Spanish with, by the district's count, 1,680 students.

In response to the growth, the district has created a variety of support services including bilingual tutoring and a Saturday school that teaches English, math and life skills. It also hired Mohamed Roble, a Somali elder who works with families from Somalia and other East African countries.

Roble said he sees a second wave immigration into the area from Minneapolis and other Somali communities around the United States. He said Somalis were coming to Seattle partly to escape violence in other American cities.

"We don't have a lot of gangs like Minnesota or San Diego," he said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poland swears in Nigerian Godson as first black MP

14 December 2010 Last updated at 06:18 ET

John Abraham Godson, a Polish citizen born and raised in Nigeria, has been sworn in as the first black member of Poland's parliament.

Mr Godson had served as a councillor in the city of Lodz before taking up a parliamentary seat, vacated by a party colleague after local elections.

His entry into parliament has created a media stir in the mainly white country.

He came to Poland in the 1990s, opening an English-language school and working as a pastor in a Protestant church.

He has since married a Polish woman and the couple have four children.

Beaten up twice
A member of the centre-right Civic Platform party, he was appointed to the seat vacated by party colleague Hanna Zdanowskaafter after she became mayor of Lodz.

It is still quite rare to see black people even in the Polish capital Warsaw, Poland's most cosmopolitan city, the BBC's Adam Easton reports.

Racism is still a problem in Poland, where it is not uncommon for well-educated people to make racist jokes, our correspondent says.

Mr Godson was beaten up twice in the early 1990s but he says attitudes to black people in Poland are changing for the better, particularly since the country joined the EU six years ago.

Speaking earlier to Polish radio, Mr Godson said: "I am from Lodz, I will live here, I want to die here and I want to be buried here."



Special to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — Worried about the direction the set-to-change U.S. Congress will take on immigration and other hot-button issues, a group of professionals and retirees from English-speaking Caribbean countries recently came together and sounded a rallying cry.

There were no bullhorns, crudely painted signs and people milling in the street.

In the backyard of Evrol and Bernice Adams in Miami Gardens on a recent Sunday evening, the loosely formed group, called Caribbean Action Team (CARAT), staged its Second Caribbean Mobilization Rally. Its purpose: to advocate, agitate and activate people who hail from West Indian countries, especially when it comes to the political process.

The group said it is not motivated by the looming 2012 elections, though it showed plenty of concern about the results of the 2010 mid-term general elections which shifted the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republican control. The Democrats barely managed to hold on to the Senate.

Rather, CARAT is more concerned with the lame-duck Congress and new policies that could arise and affect the immigrant community.

One issue in its sights is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- the DREAM Act -- first introduced in 2001. The measure, supported by some Republicans and Democrats, allows certain undocumented students, who came to the US before age 16 with their parents, to obtain legal permanent status. They would be granted permanent status only if, over a number of years, they successfully complete several conditions, including graduating from college or serving in the US military.

The legislation, which would affect an untold amount of Caribbean children, is expected to be voted on by the Senate before it goes on holiday. President Barack Obama wants the bill signed by the new year.

Opponents say that Dream Act is amnesty masquerading in a different form and that the students will take resources away from law-abiding American children.

To combat an ongoing smear campaign against the act, Marlon Hill, partner in the law firm delancyhill, and a CARAT member, said information about the proposed law and its potential impact on West Indians will be given to community leaders for distribution to residents.

Hill said this is the sort of effort CARAT plans to mobilize in the future.

“The key thing is to act on issues that affect the community at large,” Hill said. “No one has a monopoly on ideas.”

CARAT held its first rally two weeks before the Nov. 2 mid-term elections. Jerry Nagee, a former journalist, said she was motivated to form the group after receiving many calls over the years to help people choose candidates for elections.

Nagee is concerned that many people from the English-speaking Caribbean come to America and blend in and become silent bystanders, especially in the political process.

A big part of the problem is the way election of candidates differs from what happens in Caribbean countries, she said. In those places, there are no judges to elect, for example, and candidates hold huge rallies to introduce themselves to voters. In America, she said, candidates present themselves to voting blocs. She said she had to beg candidates to advertise in Caribbean newspapers.

At the rally held Nov. 28, when Hill handed out the election results, Marcia Magnus, a Jamaican professor of nutrition at Florida International University, asked if he had Kleenex to go with them.

Hill discussed how some of the key Democratic races, such as Alex Sink’s bid to become governor, sank because of poor voter turnout.

“Sadly, too many of us stayed home,” Hill said. “People did not call their people. Everyone is responsible.”

Hill wants CARAT to concentrate on building a network of people to call during elections and at other times. He asked attendees to make a list of people with whom they interact and provide them with relevant information.

Hill also wants to politically educate college-age students and young people, such as Kamilah Ragoo, 27, who attended the rally with her father, Dave Francis Ragoo, the evening’s master of ceremonies.

Many impassioned speeches had the same theme: a need for people to educate their network of family and friends.

Magnus, who is a member of the Caribbean American Politically Active Citizens, publisher of the Miami-Dade and Broward Voters’ Guide, was concerned that CARAT doesn’t have an action plan. She suggested writing a letter and sending a picture to Lieutenant Governor-elect Jennifer Carroll, introducing themselves as a group of concerned citizens.

“We can talk about what is, what was and what should be, but the problem of misinformation and no information are too severe for us to just talk,” Magnus said.

For more information on the Caribbean Action Team, call Marlon Hill at 786-777-0184.

JAMES FORBES/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. POLITICAL TALK: Attorney Marlon Hill speaks about the Nov. 2 mid-term elections during the second Caribbean Mobilization Rally held by the Caribbean Action Team at a Miami Gardens backyard on Nov. 28.

South Sudanese to vote in Arlington

Posted Dec 12, 2010 @ 04:00 PM
Last update Dec 13, 2010 @ 11:11 AM

From 1956 to 2005, with a brief hiatus in the 1970s, the people of South Sudan fought a war against Sudan’s Khartoum regime in which two million South Sudanese died and another four million were displaced.

Between now and Jan. 9 the mostly black and Christian South will be voting on whether to secede from the union with the mostly Arab and Muslim North that was imposed on them more than a century ago by the British colonial power. Most observers believe that when the votes are counted South and North Sudan will be two separate countries.

The peace agreement brokered by the Bush administration in 2005 ended the civil war and set the referendum on secession that will now be taking place. Sudanese refugees living in other countries, including the United States, are permitted to vote.

The International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental organization that implements the world’s orderly refugee movement, is overseeing the vote here and in other diaspora countries. Arlington has been selected as one of several American registration and voting sites.

The South Sudanese Community Center, where the voting will be held, is home to The Sudanese Education Fund, which assists the Sudanese refugee community with educational stipends, tutoring, women’s programs, childhood enrichment programs and other services.

Israel to send 150 illegals back to Sudan: report

13 DECEMBER 2010 - 22H03

AFP - Israel on Monday was to deport 150 Sudanese who entered the country illegally in search of work, the private Channel Two television station reported.

It said they would leave aboard a chartered aircraft for a third country before then being repatriated, without specifying the transit destination.

The illegal immigrants, who had agreed to leave voluntarily, would be given "a small sum of money to start a new life in their home country," the broadcaster reported.

It said the repatriation was being carried out by the foreign and interior ministries "with the support of the United Nations."

On November 38, the Israeli government approved the creation of a detention centre near its southern border with Egypt to house thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa seeking work in the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement the cabinet endorsed the plan for the camp as a matter of necessity, as economic migrants were arriving at an average rate of more than 1,200 each month.

"This wave is growing and it threatens the jobs of Israelis. It is changing the face of the state and we have to stop it," Netanyahu said before a weekly cabinet meeting.

Israel has also begun constructing a 250-kilometre (155-mile) fence along the Egyptian border aimed at stopping the influx of migrants.

The barrier is expected to cost 365 million dollars and will incorporate unspecified technological measures.

The Israel-Egypt border has become a major transit route for economic migrants and asylum-seekers, many from Sudan and Eritrea.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

African Girls Held as Slaves in N.J.

By: Sheryl Huggins Salomon

It's hard to believe that there would be enslaved Africans in America in the 21st century, but in one case, they were working in plain sight as hair braiders in Newark, NJ. If you've ever had the feeling that the price you paid for your microbraid extensions was "a steal," be warned: it very well might have been.

CNN tells the story of nearly 20 girls, some as young as 9, taken from the West African nations of Ghana and Togo, and forced to work in the U.S. for free between 2002 and 2007. "It was like being trapped, like being in a cage," explained one of the young women, now 19, who was identified by CNN as "Nicole." The girls were held in houses near the salons where they worked up to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many of their customers were people whose own ancestors had been brought over from Africa in bondage.

The girls' parents apparently let them go thinking they would receive an education and good lives in America. Instead, they were beaten, kept in squalid conditions, and in some cases sexually abused. Earlier this year Akouavi Afolabi; her husband, Lassissi Afolabi; and their son, Dereck Hounakey, were convicted of running the human trafficking ring. They received prison sentences ranging from 4-27 years.

Hear their story in the CNN video below or read it here. And if you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, check out the National Human Trafficking Resource Center for tips on what to do.

Mosi A. Ifatunji, Ph.D. Candidate
ASA Pre-Doctoral Fellow
University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Sociology (MC 312)
1007 West Harrison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607-7140
Call/Text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji