refugees

When Donald Trump Jr. compared Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, the condemnation was swift — critics called the tweet glib, dehumanizing, inaccurate, cruel.

Turns out they could have called it something else: copyright infringement.

The photo featured in the tweet was taken, without permission or credit, from a man named David Kittos.

And Kittos tells the BBC he was once a refugee himself.

Osman Mohamed of Somalia.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

He thought it would be paradise.

Instead, he found guns, violence and struggle. 

Osman Mohamed, of Somalia, and his three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 5. Osmon hoped to find paradise in Seattle, but in his first year, his family witnessed a shooting and he was hit by a car.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

For many refugees, the first year can feel like a race against the clock to set up a new life.

You get a little cash up front and a few months of help from a social worker.

Then, you’re mostly on your own.


Tu Tu – people from Burma don't have last names – at his cousin's two-bedroom apartment in Kent. His arrival upped the number of people living there to nine.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Tu Tu is his full name, because Burmese people don’t use last names.

He is 20 when he arrives in Seattle. With his long bangs and torn jeans, he looks American.

It terrifies him that he can’t speak English. How will he get by if he can’t communicate? It’s a fear he pushes out of his mind. He’s not supposed to be a kid anymore.

Audio Pending...

The couple won't say why they left Iran.

Did something bad happen?

"Yes," Peiman Karimi, the husband, says. "Not me. To Neda.”

Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi says she doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about it because it would bring everything back. All she says is her case is religious. The rest is confidential.

The U.S. defines a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. Iran is a majority Muslim country. Religious minorities face discrimination, surveillance and arrest.


“Sincerely, if I told you the truth, you cannot achieve or reach your aim if you don’t struggle. So now, I’m struggling.”

Those are the words of Osman Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia who settled in Washington this year with his wife and three children. He grapples with past trauma and with moving forward in a new country.

We followed Mohamed's story and also those of Tu Tu from Myanmar (Burma) and an Iranian couple, Peiman Karimi and Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi, for their first eight months in the U.S.

How refugees make it to Washington state

Sep 7, 2016
The first Syrian refugees have arrived in Seattle since President Obama announced the U.S. would take at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with Sarah Peterson, Chief of the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance at the Department of Social and Health Services, about the journey refugees must go through to get from their home country to this state. 

Osman Mohamed outside his apartment complex in Federal Way.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Kim Malcolm speaks with Nicky Smith, executive director of International Rescue Committee in Seattle, about the challenges and struggles of resettling refugees around Puget Sound. 

The twin babies were just 5 days old, a month premature and ill-equipped for a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. But their mother, 26-year-old Tesfamamrim Merhawit, decided the sea ahead was safer than the land they left behind. Traveling alone with her infants, she told The Associated Press she boarded a boat in Libya, bound for Europe.

Helping refugees live beyond survival mode

Aug 30, 2016
The Alhamdan family -- two parents and six children -- arrived recently in Seattle from Syria. They are joining a tiny community of 25 recent Syrian refugees.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with Andrew Kritovich, program director of international counseling and community services at Lutheran Community Services NW, about the emotional struggles that many refugees face as they transition into a new life in America. 

Tu Tu on his first shopping trip.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW's race and culture reporter Liz Jones about her series about refugee resettlement in the Puget Sound region.  Jones tracked three refugees from the moment they arrived in this country until about eight months in, which is when their federal benefits run out and they’re on their own to make it in America.  

The goal was to show what their lives are like, the obstacles they’re up against as they race against the clock to start a life here.

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FilmAid

The Olympic Games are being broadcast and streamed far beyond Rio de Janeiro. One place where the crowds watching the competition are really dedicated? One of the world's largest refugee camps, a place called Kakuma in northwest Kenya.

Some 200,000 refugees live there in a crowded and sprawling tent city overseen by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

They come from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ten athletes who are refugees are competing on the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio Games. They are representing the estimated 65 million people around the world who have been driven from their homes.

Costa Rican officials say more than 800 people claiming to be from Africa have come to their country in just the last two months. Most are believed to be from the two neighboring Congo states in central Africa. But in a visit this week, NPR also found Eritreans, Angolans and Nigerians.

Authorities also suspect that some are from Haiti.

Central America has long been the route north for people fleeing violence or poverty in Latin America. Now it's also a route from Africa.

A judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by Texas officials who want to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

The suit claimed the Obama administration had not adequately consulted with states before placing the refugees. In his decision, signed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Godbey ruled that the state has no authority over resettlements handled by the federal government, which has authority over immigration policy.

Godbey also found the state had failed to present plausible evidence that Syrian refugees pose an imminent risk.

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