Doctors Without Borders Exhibit Gives Visitors a Personal View of the Global Refugee Crisis

by Jason Dzubow on November 1, 2016

This piece is by Samantha Hsieh, a fellow at our law firm. Samantha recently graduated from The George Washington University Law School with honors. She is interested in practicing asylum law and removal defense. Samantha’s immigration experience includes interning at a law firm and at the Department of Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation. Prior to law school, she worked as a paralegal at an immigration firm.

I recently attended the Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (“MSF”), Forced From Home exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The exhibit, which is touring five East Coast cities this year, allows participants to learn about the experiences of refugees from around the world and raises awareness for their cause.

Participants could choose between clothes, jewelry, children’s toys, a bicycle, a wheelchair, a guitar, footwear, money, fishing equipment, pets, medication, a phone, keys, water, a sewing machine, photos, scarves, a passport, food, and baby formula

Participants could choose between clothes, jewelry, children’s toys, a bicycle, a wheelchair, a guitar, footwear, money, fishing equipment, pets, medication, a phone, keys, water, a sewing machine, photos, scarves, a passport, food, and baby formula

Upon entry, visitors are given an identity as a refugee, internally displaced person, or asylum seeker from Honduras, South Sudan, Burundi, Syria, or Afghanistan. According to MSF, there are currently 65 million people in the world fleeing from conflict or persecution. Our tour guide, Jane, explained the work of MSF, which employs around 35,000 people and provides free medical care in over 60 countries. Jane is a nurse who has worked in dozens of refugee camps.

One of our first tasks was to select five items from 20 to bring on our journey. I chose a cell phone, medication, passport, water, and stove. Refugees fleeing on foot are limited to items that they can easily carry. Oftentimes, decisions about which items to bring must be made in a hurry. I noticed that the only other participants who had also chosen cell phones were two children whose eyes were glued to their iPads the entire time. We were forced to give up our items one by one in order to pay for different parts of the journey.

Jane led our group onto a small inflatable raft in order to simulate crossing the Mediterranean Sea. We sat in the raft with the men on the perimeter and the women and children in the center on the floor.

These rafts were supposed to hold seven people, but as many as 60 refugees and their belongings would squeeze into one raft. Smugglers load refugees onto the rafts and then leave them to their journey, often without enough fuel. Refugees are sometimes given cheap counterfeit life vests, filled with ineffective packaging material. Rafts that stay on course take about eight days to reach Europe. The cost of admission for a seat in one of these rafts? US$2,000.00 to US$3,000.00 per person. Since January 2016, roughly 3,600 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

Refugee camp bathrooms lack privacy.

Refugee camp bathrooms lack privacy.

Next, we visited a re-creation of a refugee camp. Each person in the camp receives a daily ration of water, grains, beans, oil, and salt. The young women and girls are responsible for filling and delivering water containers holding up to six gallons. Humans need a minimum of four gallons of water a day for drinking and basic hygiene and cooking. For comparison, the average American uses 90 gallons of water each day. Jane also demonstrated how to use a typical bathroom in a refugee camp, which is essentially a box around a hole with a curtain in the front. Notably missing was toilet paper.

Standing in front of an MSF medical tent, Jane told us about several medical issues that refugees face. While relatively easy to treat, cholera–which arises from contaminated food or water–can kill within hours if left untreated. Malaria is also common. MSF staff test patients for malaria by applying a blood sample to a test card. Because of language barriers, the packaging for the malaria medication uses symbols instead of words to convey dosage instructions.

A typical MSF medical tent

A typical MSF medical tent

Malnutrition in young children can be difficult to recognize, particularly for local aid workers who lack formal medical training. MSF staff use mid upper-arm circumference (“MUAC”) bracelets to measure the arms of young children as a simple means of detecting malnutrition and determining a treatment plan. Children whose arm circumference is under 116 millimeters (roughly 4.5 inches) suffer from severe acute malnutrition and are immediately hospitalized. Malnourished children are fed Plumpy’nut, a high-calorie peanut paste mixed with vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients for weight gain. One small packet of Plumpy’nut contains 500 calories.

Finally, we viewed several tents similar to those where refugee families live. Conditions in refugee camps range from reprehensible (more common) to fairly good (rare). Regardless of their living conditions, refugees are forced to wrestle with concerns over the safety of family and friends left behind and uncertainty over their own futures.

Plumpy’nut has been called “surprisingly tasty.”

Plumpy’nut has been called “surprisingly tasty.”

The town of Dadaab, Kenya contains some of the oldest and largest refugee camps in the world. The first camps in Dadaab were constructed in 1992. The Dadaab camps are now home to over 300,000 refugees. Some refugees born in Dadaab have grown up and now have children of their own. Jane told us of one resident she spoke to who had expected to stay for only a few weeks. He has not left the camp in over 15 years.

At the end of the exhibit, Jane told us the greatest lessons she learned from serving as a nurse in refugee camps around the world. “Every day,” she said, “I was reminded of the resilience of humanity and that despite the terrible things that had happened to them there, people always miss their home.”

Follow the route of the Forced From Home exhibit, register to attend, and sign up for updates about future locations here.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Paolo February 6, 2017 at 11:17 pm

if asylum is grated, house should be given by USCIS

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Jason Dzubow February 7, 2017 at 7:42 am

The US government provides very limited benefits to asylum seekers. If you email the asylum office, they may be able to provide you with a benefits sheet, listing the benefits. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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A Khan November 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Thanks Jason,

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A Khan November 12, 2016 at 11:29 am

Hi Jason,
like every asylum seeker I would like to say you help us a lot.Good rewards you for every help you doing.I am done with my interview and waiting for approval since June, 2016.
I have question about finding update about my asylum case. I tried it several time by calling on immigration office number and they ask me to send letter to my related immigration office . I did what they said to me and I send letter to Chicago office and I wait for more than one month ,no answer so I called Chicago office and they did not give me any update so I send them second letter, I am still waiting. please advise me what to do? as a Muslim I am also in great tension what will be happen with us and with our asylum cases and when we will meet our family.
thanks.

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Jason Dzubow November 13, 2016 at 10:22 pm

You might try emailing the asylum office. You can find their email address if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. You can also contact the USCIS Ombudsman – a link is at right. As for your concern about how your religion may impact the case, I am also concerned about that. But until Mr. Trump actually starts implementing his policies, we do not know what they will be. We can hope for the best. Also, you should know that there will be many organizations and activists working to help people if they are discriminated against by our government. Take care, Jason

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A Khan November 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm

thanks.

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lulu November 9, 2016 at 2:58 am

Dear Jason: I want to make long story short since I don’t wanna waste your time and I do appreciate all your efforts for all of us!! I submitted my asylum case to San Francisco office Jan 2015, then I moved to Chicago sep,2015 BUT I just did the address change on the uscis website I didn’t do the AR 11 form. Yesterday, I called the Chicago office for making sure my case has been transferred there already but I was told I should have filled out the AR 11 form and sent to them. So can you please tell me where my case is now…I guess it’s still in San Francisco? and does it sound great if I am going to move back maybe Seattle soon? I mean because I failed to do the AR 11 when I got to Chicago does that mean if i’m moving back, basically I don’t need another AR 11 so I may need a simple address change on uscis website? and my case will be treated nothing differently from I left and moved back again? then I can expect my interview to be held according to the filed date which is Jan 2015? probably my interview will be going on summer time of 2017? does the whole thing make sense to you Jason? p.s. Jason, your office address can be found online right? I would like to send you a postcard when Chanukah comes!!! God loves us! G-d must love you even more lol!!

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Jason Dzubow November 9, 2016 at 5:55 pm

I guess your case is still in SF. When you move back, you should file an AR-11 with your new address. Submit it online and submit it to the SF asylum office. I suspect you will keep your place in the queue. However, if you are in Seattle, that is a sub-office of SF, and so it is likely slower than the SF office. Take care, Jason

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lulu November 9, 2016 at 9:38 pm

tons of thanks Jason!!! This blog is a shelter for all of us who are searching American dreams!

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sam November 8, 2016 at 11:11 am

Thanks Jason for this wonderful blog, my question is I have pending asylum case, I have submitted supporting documents when I applying but some of the documents I haven’t submitted them then because I didn’t got them at that time. Now I collected all the remaining supporting documents, should I send them at anytime or only 2 weeks before the interview. Is there a guidelines about how to send additional supporting documents, I try to find about this on the website but I couldn’t. Once again thanks for all your info, you are saving people from a lot of stress by providing information, in very gloomy time, you hear a lot of negative remorse about what could happen but you blog informed me and people like me with correct information.

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sam November 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm

And One thing to add also, I have prepared my asylum without lawyer, but now I think I can afford a lawyer, can I add lawyer later in my asylum processes and how much significant are lawyers to cases, if they are do you know good lawyers link on Arlington office, I would love you to be my lawyer if you are not full.

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sam November 10, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Hi Jason, any information regarding adding additional documents letter.

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Jason Dzubow November 11, 2016 at 11:13 am

Strange – somehow not all your questions appeared on my feed. Anyway, you can add additional documents any time. However, most (maybe all) offices have rules about submitting documents close to the interview date. In Arlington, they must be submitted at least one week before the interview. Also, you can hire a lawyer at any time in the process (including me, if you want), but you should understand there are 3 things the lawyer does: prepare the documents, practice with you before the interview, and attend the interview. You already did the first one (mostly). The second one is important. The third one is not so important as the lawyers job at the interview is very small. It is the first two that are most important. Take care, Jason

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Sean November 7, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Thanks for all those info, every office is moving a bit as far as interviews are concerned, I wondered what’s wrong with the Houston office, they stuck there for last 11 months or so, haven’t progressed at all, would you plz elaborate about it Jason, thanks

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Jason Dzubow November 8, 2016 at 7:38 am

I do not know, but my guess is they are dealing with a lot of border cases (credible fear interviews) and this has prevented them from focusing on “regular” asylum cases. It may also be that USCIS is distributing resources and since Houston is a relatively fast office, they are giving it some of the cases from the slower offices to help them out. But I do not know. Take care, Jason

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Khuram Bashir November 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hello Mr Jason, Question regarding Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin, i have noticed that they already have spent 6 months on people who filed in Jan 2014. I have filed in Feb 05, 2014, what are your predictions about possible interview date.
thank you

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Jason Dzubow November 8, 2016 at 7:36 am

There is no way to know, but I suspect it will be soon – Make sure you have all the supporting documents and send them to your lawyer. In this case, I happen to know that your lawyer has been going over the case and it is mostly ready to go. Take care, Jason

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AJ November 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Hi Jason, I really appreciate for you posts, its very usefull posts. I recive notice of referral and they put my Master hearing on December 1 2016. The question is do I have to go to master hearing with attorney or it’s fine to come by yourself. The master hearing is just to asign court date Am I right?
Thank you

AJ

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Jason Dzubow November 3, 2016 at 5:03 pm

You can go by yourself, but it is common for the judge to pressure people to get a lawyer and to give you a continuance for another Master Hearing until you find a lawyer. In court, having a lawyer makes a big difference, and if you plan to hire a lawyer, it makes sense to have the lawyer at your Master Hearing. Take care, Jason

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XY November 2, 2016 at 7:51 am

Hi Jason
Thanks a lot for all of ur support u r a big hope for all of us.my question is I have applied asylum wd newyork asylum office in may 2016 now my 150 days vl b completed in Oct.I vl apply for the work permit know did I have to do my fingerprints again for the work permit ?? BECAUSE after applying the case I have done wd the finger prints once in June 2016.

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Jason Dzubow November 3, 2016 at 5:55 am

It seems that most, but not all, of my clients who apply for a work permit receive a fingerprint notice, so I think you will probably get one too. Take care, Jason

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Rich November 5, 2016 at 11:51 pm

Me and my wife didn’t do any fingetprints for EAD(arlington VA).

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Mohmed ahmed November 1, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Hello sir thank you alot for the help you giving us.
I have a situation early this year i married a citizen gotvmy papers in june for 2 yrs when i travelled n came back we got a misundersting she filled for a restraining order and annulment but i was told i cant win thr case does that mean my green card will be taken away immediately when she wins an anulment case?

second question i had intentions of joining the army will that affect me after the anulment and can i go and face her without a laywer and win the case please kindly advice thank you so much.and what chance do i have to get the 10 year green card if the anulment is granted

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Jason Dzubow November 2, 2016 at 6:41 am

Sorry, I can only answer questions related to asylum on this blog. Given what you described, you should talk to a lawyer about your situation. Take care, Jason

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Amit November 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Thanks Jason for your input.
What are the conditions that lead to a recommended approval and they say it is background check that is why no final approval as yet and then there are delay in decisions without any recommended approval and inquiry says background checks where people end up getting approved months may be years, why such cases don’t get recommended approval first? What is the difference? Is it office to office or something else?

Regards:
Amit

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Jason Dzubow November 2, 2016 at 6:32 am

It may be that a RA comes if everything except the background check is done. If there are still other issues undecided, them they do not give the RA. But it might also be that each officer (or each supervisor) does things a bit differently, and so maybe that is a factor as well. In my opinion, the RA is pretty useless. Until you have the final approval, you really do not have anything. Take care, Jason

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Amit November 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm

Thanks Jason,
Can you please say what everything except the background check would involve?

Amit

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Jason Dzubow November 3, 2016 at 6:23 am

The Asylum Office has determined that you meet the definition of refugee and that you qualify for asylum as a matter of discretion.

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James November 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm

I tried to go to this exhibit but they closed it down on the last day in D.C. This article made me feel like I was there!

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Jason Dzubow November 2, 2016 at 6:29 am

I think it goes to Philly next, if you are there (and it is the greatest city on earth!). Take care, Jason

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Robert November 1, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Great article! I have tried plumpy nut and it IS surprisingly delicious!

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Jason Dzubow November 2, 2016 at 6:30 am

Unfortunately, she did not bring any to our office, so I have not tried it. I will have to admonish her for that. Take care, Jason

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