The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that refugee workers were stunned to learn that almost an entire Eritrean tribe has chosen not to resettle in the United States. The Kunama think they will end up in slavery like Kunte Kinte, or beaten by police. Where did they get this idea? From Islamic militiamen who have shown them the film “Roots”.
But, as you read further there is more to the story than that. The tribesmen are agrarian people attached to the land. One wonders if we do them any favors by bringing them into America cities to live in low income housing and work 12 hour days at local factories and warehouses, removed from everything they know.
In fact, some in the US who would like to see Refugee Resettlement reformed suggest we could be of more help with less expense by helping these displaced people where they live.
SHIMELBA REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopia — A strange thing happened here recently on the long and twisting refugee trail to America.
More than 4,000 war-displaced pastoralists belonging to Eritrea’s Kunama tribe, some of them languishing in this malarial holding camp for years, received a golden offer that the world’s 9 million other refugees only dream of: free resettlement in the land of riches and liberty, the United States. Yet, to the bewilderment of aid workers, the overwhelming majority of Kunamas answered with a resounding, “No thanks.”
…in 2005, the Kunamas won the equivalent of the global refugee jackpot: The UN successfully nominated the oppressed minority for resettlement to the United States.
Reasons besides fear
Most refugee workers have pegged the tribe’s reluctance to leave Africa to romantic notions, particularly a deep attachment to the land. And many older people in Shimelba, who still cook their meals on the ground and are unfamiliar with the operation of a doorknob, did seem unwilling to stray too far from their nomad’s paradise of white thorns and red earth.
The first of those in the tribe who will venture to America will arrive in Florida and Nevada this week according to the Chicago Tribune.