In visiting with a myriad of cultures from Asia, notably Burma, for the last 5 years I came to learn what a UN or United Nations Name was. I’ve been researching the nuances of immigration/human trafficking from Asia when refugees discussed how easy it was to buy refugee status along with UN Name and date of birth. Simply claim to be a refugee from one of the various ethnic groups that are under siege. Some very nice people will help you get a new name and identity issued directly from the UNACR making you an official refugee, for a nominal fee of course. Just don’t tell anybody.
Yup, many refugees spoke of several ethnic agencies in Malaysia that take payment to moving applications for refugee status to the front of the line. These agencies also provide a written letter in English explaining all the horrors the pseudo refugee had to endure before getting here. There were no qualms discussing the acquisition of a bogus name and identity to gain entry into the US. The fraud was a necessary evil since refugees get benefits that immigrants don’t when relocating into a new country. Now Australia will be shipping refugees to Malaysia adding to the refugee chaos and it is time to get a handle on this situation. After all, Malaysia is a hub of sorts for trafficking of every kind.
Normally the UN relocates displaced refugees and work with host countries to help the people assimilate into society. Many refugees are already targeted for a variety of industries in host nations but many more primitive cultures must learn the basics to survival in this modern society. Unfortunately true refugees tend to be overlooked when placements are given but bogus refugees are off to a new life and/or assignment depending on who they really are and who really sponsored them. Some younger guys and gals I met revealed they were not actually 16 and 20, but 32 and 36! You could have fooled me. And this poses an issue since some of these people are placed in high school with the belief they are still teenagers and I’m having a problem justifying this conduct now that I am totally aware of this fraud. But by the same token I do not mean to imply that all refugees are frauds.
I was dismayed to learn that some of the refugees I’ve worked and fought for were not really victims but opportunists who’ve used the system to garner passage to America and a free ride. That really pissed me off since I know ‘real’ refugees and political exiles that suffered and endure untold horrors before coming to America. From my observations bogus (and educated) refugees tend to prey on the innocent legitimate survivors of genocide in a subtle form of feudalism whence they set up shop in the US. Again, not all refugees and exiles are shams and users. If it were not for the assistance of some very observant people within the Asian community I would not have been made aware of this dirty little secret crisis since it is hard to detect if you are not Asian.
So how do people pull off such a scam? Real refugees and IDPs have few written records, if any and live very tribally. Much of their history is oral with scant records of their very existence. With few records the UN gathers as much information from the refugee they can then issue them an official I.D. or UN name with a fresh date of birth, usually dated on the first of any given month. Affluent Burmese who faked their way into the US only stay in refugee centers for about 1 or 2 years of declaring they were refugees. Sadly, real refugees in Mae Sot or other refugee center along the Burma/Thai border have to wait in squalid conditions for upwards of 8 to 15 years or more. They are literally living out their lifetime waiting for a host nation. Then there are others who simply die out of despair, rape or murder in refugee centers. Women and children continue to be under siege and kidnappings are common place in refugee camps since brothels around the world are supplied these innocent people. And it is with this in mind I am writing about what I discovered since it is wrong on all levels that bogus refugees are capitalizing on the suffering of real refugees just to get to Canada, America and other host nations.
There are many ways to pull of this refugee/trafficking scam. I learned of a family that came to the US as a refugee but the fact was the husband and wife was brother and sister and their kids were their siblings and not actually Karen as they claimed. Then there was the family that was actually a man and woman who took refugee Karen kids to America and raised them to be their personal slaves. The actual parents back in Burma thought their kids went to America for a better life but nothing could be further from the truth. It would appear that trafficking has many faces and designs within the Asian communities I have researched. Though I am not a fan of Than Shwe’s Burma I found it repugnant that phony refugees claimed a host of atrocities perpetrated by the junta that were not true. They were simply bold faced lies just to gain sympathy from unaware sympathizers and aid workers to gain citizenship.
It is said if you had $500,000 Kyats (Burmese) you could buy a wife with US citizenship and live in America, get your green card and buy a flat screen TV. Hmm, I’d like to have a flat screen TV. Chinese American friends of mine caution that China had infiltrated the US to saturation long ago. The door is wide open in Malaysia for fraudsters and Australia just made the door even wider in recent days. Many refugees still live in emotional terror and suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from their actual encounters with genocide. The real refugees I encountered are not so talkative about their plight but when they do speak they are not boisterous as they describe their experiences. You can see the terror in their eyes and feel their emotion. Some bare the scars of torture and physical abuse as well.
My interpreter and I were at a loss for words from what they described to us and she is a political exile who also endured extreme hardships before coming to America. Imagine hiding out quietly while witnessing the torture, rape and dismemberment of a family member by soldiers. The emotional scars run deep and are hard to ignore or fabricate. The beleaguered family makes it out of the deadly jungles and into the relative safety of a refugee center only to have their daughter kidnapped and sold into slavery. Babies are snatched up and sold to a variety of fetid clients. Some stories of survival would raise the hair in the back of your neck. True refugees tell stories that bogus ones only try to emulate but one must be keen to the body language to detect fraud and I’ve learned to spot such frauds. Verifying the validity of these tales by people on the border or within Burma also helped me personally since I have many contacts.
Unscrupularity is an ever present undercurrent within the Asian communities. Human trafficking has many faces. The feudal mentality prevails in many Asian cultures and this axiom reigns within refugee communities here as well. Many refugees accept their proverbial caste regardless of laws that protect them in host nations. Some folks work 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for less than minimum wage. One gal beamed to me that she was only working 6 ½ days a week now, oh boy. Not all buffets are the same. Many are operated by honest hard working people and offer a healthy working environment for their employees as prescribed by OSHA and the Department of labor. Employees don’t all have to live together in a sleazy two bedroom dump, owned by the restaurateur who keeps them under surveillance. Living conditions of refugees enslaved in the grips of trafficking are crowded and unsafe, especially for women who frequently get raped in these hovels filled with men. I learned about a restaurateur who simply ordered a female refugee out of Malaysia solely for the purpose of ‘servicing’ male refugees who worked in his kitchens, gads!
Immigrants totally unaware of US Labor Laws or OSHA silently work as slaves since they are oblivious to the laws in the host nation. Taking advantage of the less educated people of the jungle has become an art form for some Asian corporations and organizations doing business in the US. I researched an Asian food corporation that boldly violated Federal Trade Commission regulations while fleecing their franchisees with bogus charges and fees. Refugees with no clue about franchise regulations sign up only to be financially enslaved by ruthless sushi franchisors. Some Asian corporation banks on the ignorance of their immigrant franchise holders and starry eyed refugees for they are the ideal target employees. Suicide and mental illness follows many sushi franchise holders I’ve interviewed, for example. They are slaves who work 12 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week and must incorporate their entire families to meet quotas by the franchisor. One Taiwanese franchisor I investigated has stores across Canada and the US predominantly operated by refugees. I will bust their ass in another story since I am far from done with this story of abuse.
I know several Chinese businessmen who were fraught with fear I would divulged their names or businesses from insights they gave me in the growing Chinese Buffet trafficking scam. The Chinese government uses fear to maintain control of its people through extortion or blatant acts of revenge on families on the mainland. This is also another control mechanism trafficker’s use on their victims to maintain control of their slaves in America and I’m blowing the lid off this fetid act of repression. This is rampant and not exclusive to sushi bars and buffets but a myriad of Asian enterprises throughout Canada and the US. There is no question this activity exists in all other nations who accept Asian refugees. I’ll wager this type of abuse is common within refugee communities around the world as well.
Though this may poise a difficult national security risk I do have a solution that would quell some of this bogus activity. The use of DNA to determine if the person is actually a Karen, Kachin or other ethnic group would eliminate much of the fraud and traffic. DNA would also reveal if children were actually sired by the couple trying to gain access to America since child slavery is more common then one realizes. It would also eliminate brother/sister couples as well as their siblings from gaining illegal entry into a country and that is my primary concern. Bring us your needy but not the greedy, I say. By stemming the tide of fraud from bogus refugees the true refugees will get the resources they truly deserve and a country that will embrace them. It makes me sick to my stomach that fraud has become the cornerstone of the growing refugee debacle. The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement already has their hands full but a little DNA may decrease their workload when it comes to determining if a refugee is legitimate or not. On a personal note, I was taken for a ride by a bogus refugee. I still remember the smirk on her face when she was granted asylum after all the hard work I donated so she would not be raped again by the junta. It was all a lie and I am not a happy camper since I used resources that were allocated to help the needy not the greedy, capice?
Your Devil’s Advocate