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For refugees from Burma, hope of better life in US turns into extreme poverty, isolation
Date:11/28/2011

Refugees who have fled Burma to live in Oakland, Calif., are at risk of becoming a permanent, poverty-stricken underclass warns a new report released today by researchers at San Francisco State University and the Burma Refugee Family Network (BRFN). The report found that almost 60 percent of Oakland's refugees from Burma are living in extreme poverty.

Since 2007, thousands of refugees from war-torn Burma have been resettled by the U.S. federal government and an estimated 400 individuals have been resettled in Oakland.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been under military rule since 1962. Ethnic minorities make up 40 percent of the country's population and many refugees are from the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups, have been the targets of brutal military attacks and persecution by Burma's Army.

"These recent refugees from Burma are facing dire circumstances," said Russell Jeung, associate professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. "The recession and government cuts in adult English classes mean that even though they want to work, these refugees have no opportunity to learn English or workplace skills in order to adapt to life in the U.S."

Jeung and his students, together with BRFN and other community-based organizations, surveyed 194 refugees from Burma to assess the community's needs. The researchers found that in addition to high poverty rates, these refugees face barriers to accessing employment, health care and government benefits caused by their lack of English. These barriers have been exacerbated by recent cuts in the provision of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and a lack of appropriate interpretation services.

"Refugees from Burma are brought here to escape years of persecution and hardship, and are hoping for a better life in the U.S., but instead they are being neglected and caught in a web of poverty," said Zar Ni Maung of BRFN. "Here, we should have more human
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Contact: Elaine Bible
ebible@sfsu.edu
415-405-3606
San Francisco State University
Source:Eurekalert

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