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

rights and opportunities, but we still struggle and must work together to overcome these challenges."

The report found that among Oakland's refugee population from Burma:

  • 63 percent are unemployed. Those that are employed have sporadic, low-wage jobs.
  • 57 percent live below the federal threshold for extreme poverty, earning less than $1,000 per month for an average household size of five. Most of the remainder live below the federal poverty line.
  • 38 percent speak no English at all. Another 28 percent speak English poorly.
  • 74 percent report that lack of English is their biggest barrier to accessing health care.
  • 47 percent report that English classes are the most-needed service in their community.

The outlook is particularly difficult for refugees from Burma's Karen and Karenni ethnic groups, which make up the majority of the refugees from Burma that have resettled in Oakland. These ethnic groups originate from some of the poorest and least developed states in Burma. They fled their home states in eastern Burma to escape military attacks and human rights abuses. Now resettled in Oakland, refugees of Karenni origin are struggling to adapt to life in the United States: 81 percent are unemployed, 90 percent are living in extreme poverty and 90 percent have no high school education.

"These ethnic groups are faring the worst," Jeung said. "They are the least educated, the least empowered and many of them only speak their own ethnic language, which means they can't understand Burmese translators and are locked out of accessing the services they need."

The report's recommendations include an extension of the federal Refugee Cash Assistance Program, which currently only provides support to refugees for eight months after their arrival in the U.S. It also calls for direct support for refugee community organizations helping their own communities and the funding and training of interpreters in ethnic languag
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Contact: Elaine Bible
ebible@sfsu.edu
415-405-3606
San Francisco State University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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