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‘Church’ refugee resettlement contractors bring in millions as debt collection agencies

Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 2, 2015

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about all of the burgeoning interest in how the UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program works, is that we are discovering that there are some real investigative reporters out there like this one (Jeffrey McDonald) at Religion News Service.

Kentucky syrians

This airport photo is from our post on the first Syrians arriving in KY. Note that ‘Dad’ is carrying an IOM bag. The IOM arranges airfares after receiving money from the US taxpayer.

For eight years we’ve commented about this little known aspect of how the resettlement contractors (six ‘religiously-oriented ones) are getting a little extra boodle by pressuring refugees to repay their airfare loans (the original funding came out of the US Treasury and was distributed to the International Organization on Migration to buy plane tickets).  I have several posts on the practice, but here is one from 2010 I found interesting when having a quick look.

In fact, where I live, in 2007, a stressed-out refugee took a letter he didn’t understand to an ESL teacher to ask exactly what it meant—it was a letter from a resettlement agency telling him he needed to start paying back the airfare, or else.  The “or else” would be a poor credit rating (you can imagine how some former camp-dwelling third-worlder was confused!).

So, if you are saying, well of course they should pay it back!  This is the part that is so egregious—-the resettlement contractor pockets 25% of what the agency wrings out of the refugee.  It does not all return to the US Treasury.

Here is the story I was so excited to see! From Religion News Service (hat tip: Joanne):

(RNS) Faith-based agencies that resettle refugees in America stand to gain more than a clear conscience if the United States — after what is expected to be a fierce debate in Congress — accepts a proposed 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.

More refugees also means more revenue for the agencies’ little-known debt collection operations, which bring in upwards of $5 million a year in commissions as resettled refugees repay loans for their travel costs. All nine resettlement agencies charge the same going rate as private-sector debt collectors: 25 percent of all they recoup for the government.

I think it’s actually more than $5 million because in one recent year I saw that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops had pulled in $3 million (in one year).  Later in the story reporter McDonald says he found that the USCCB got $3.4 million from their debt collection work.

Human rights industrial complex is having an internal conflict over the boodle.

Now get this!  Even in their own circles they have noticed a little hypocrisy from those who lecture us about our moral duty to “welcome the stranger.”

Moral duty has become a prominent feature of the refugee debate.


As resistance to refugees grows, so also do calls for moral action on their behalf. Some refugee advocates are now urging resettlement agencies to help the cause — and boost their own moral authority — by forgoing their 25 percent commissions if possible and letting newly arrived refugees keep that money. So far, none has heeded that call.

“It would be wise, if they can afford it, to let the refugees use whatever resources they have to help their self-sufficiency,” said Eva Millona***, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “It would add more credibility.”

What the heck, give it to the refugee?  How about foregoing their commission and giving all of it back to the US taxpayer!  (I’m betting none of this little cozy arrangement was spelled out in the original Refugee Act of 1980.)

McDonald goes on to explain how “churches” need this cold hard cash for their ‘good works.’

Read the whole thing!

These are the nine contractors resettling refugees and acting as debt collectors:

***More here on Eva as she and the NO Borders gang get ready for their big pow-wow later this month (where they will be talking about us!).  The event was planned long before all hell broke loose with the refugee program.

One more thing….

It occurs to me that maybe we don’t give the contractors their cut but instead use that 25% of returned airfare money to fund our proposed Repatriation Fund! What do you think?

Action Alert:  Call your members of the House and Senate at 202-224-3121 and ask them to vigorously oppose the Refugee Resettlement funding contained in the Omnibus Spending Bill that will be voted on by 12-11-15! Please call by this Friday, Dec. 4th.

3 Responses to “‘Church’ refugee resettlement contractors bring in millions as debt collection agencies”

  1. michellefromsandiego said

    From the article:
    “The travel loans can help to keep programs afloat, to keep staff intact in times when we’re not getting enough refugees to keep staff on board.”


  2. lavagabonda said

    Last month I came from Heathrow to OHare to Cleveland.In Heathrow I noticed quite a few teeny tiny africans wearing spanking new clothesand carrying one of those IOM plastic bags (which I really did not understanduntil reading your column today.)In OHare I noticed a big ‘fed’ type white man who stood on the ‘admitted’ sideof boarding. Whenever he saw an IOM bag come through he interacted with them.In OHare in the boarding area I noticed quite a few extremely conservative familieswith the women in full hijab & niqab (the older wife even wore black gloves). In that family the man looked full-grown–for a 12-year-old kid. There was an adult woman,a younger woman (wife #2?), and two 7-year-old boys. They all boarded a plane forpodunksville, Indiana, for heaven’s sake.


  3. Wow…they sure don’t look like impoverished, malnourished refugees from a war-torn land.


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