A new home for case processing and cultural orientation in Nairobi

On July 20, CWS began a new chapter in its more than 20 years helping African refugees access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program with the opening of the new offices of the CWS-operated Resettlement Support Center Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Burundian drummers

Burundian drummers provide entertainment for the July 20 ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo: Amina Egal, RSC Africa

With the snip of a ribbon, Church World Service on July 20 began a new chapter in its more than 20 years of work helping African refugees access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The occasion was the official opening of the new offices of the CWS-operated Resettlement Support Center Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The work – which reaches out from Nairobi to all of sub-Saharan Africa – has come a long way from when it started in April 1990 – in a small house in Nairobi, where refugee interviews took place through a patio window. Steady growth has necessitated more and more space. Most recently, RSC Africa’s more than 230 staff have occupied a maze-like Refugee Case Processing complex and – several miles away – a Cultural Orientation office.

Case processing and cultural orientation are back together in RSC Africa’s new offices, which cover 28,000 square feet over four separate floors in the new Capital West Building, on Lantana Road in Westlands, Nairobi. The new offices include a common waiting area, 10 separate interview rooms, classrooms, and a child minding room.

Officiating at the July 20 ribbon cutting ceremony was Lawrence Bartlett, Admissions Director for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

CWS and RSC Nairobi staff

CWS and RSC Africa senior leadership at the entrance to the Capital West Building. From left to right: Marina Andina, Deputy Director of Operations for RSC Africa; Erol Kekic, Director, CWS Immigration and Refugee Program; Robin Dunn Marcos, Director of RSC Africa; Maurice Bloem, CWS Deputy Director and Head of Programs for CWS; and Sarah Krause, CWS Deputy Director of Immigration and Refugee Programs. Photo: Amina Egal, RSC Africa.

The more than 125 people in attendance included Maurice Bloem, CWS Deputy Director and Head of Programs, and Erol Kekic, CWS Immigration and Refugee Program Director, both based in New York City. Others represented the UNHCR, International Organization for Migration, Centers for Disease Control, RefugePoint, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Government of Kenya, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among others.

RSC Africa is one of several Resettlement Support Centers around the world. Others are in Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Nepal. They are key operational partners in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Of the world’s estimated 15.4 million refugees, 800,000 desperately need resettlement, according to the UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Less than one percent of them get the opportunity to resettle to the U.S. or another resettlement country.

Each year, the President of the United States establishes the U.S. refugee admissions ceiling in consultation with Congress and the State Department (76,000 for FY 2012, with up to 12,000 from Africa). The RSCs work in partnership with the U.S. government and UNHCR to identify refugees of “compelling humanitarian concern” for consideration by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

RSC staff work with refugees to compile their case files in advance of a battery of U.S. government interviews and security checks. Once a refugee is approved for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, RSC staff work with U.S. voluntary agencies to secure sponsorship assurances, and with partner organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to coordinate medical exams and travel to the United States.

 

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