Child migrants, migrants' jobs

The New York Times Magazine recently had an in-depth — and heartbreaking — look at displaced children.

The piece, with gorgeous photos that show children's lives in awful detail, didn't get much attention, but it should have.

The introduction notes that there are 30 million displaced children around the world; "The Displaced" tells the stories of three of them, Oleg from Ukraine, Chuol from South Sudan and Hana from Lebanon.

Hana and her family fled from Syria and now live in a makeshift settlement, where the 12-year-old girl and her family spend backbreaking hours as farm workers:

Once, as Hana was picking plums and staring at a branch, she suddenly remembered that a tree on her family's property back home in Syria had a swing. We could have one here, she thought — we could take one of these big buckets for carrying plums and attach it to a rope! We could take turns, maybe during a break — and then she jolted out of her daydream. 'Idiot,' she told herself, 'who's going to let you have a swing here?' She went back to work, picking plums, counting the hours until she could return to a home that was really no home at all.

Chuol and his grandmother are in a camp with 80,000 other people displaced by the civil war that has torn South Sudan apart. And yet, they are lucky:

One night in May, the fighting came to Chuol's village. He remembers every terrifying detail. Women were raped and men murdered. His father and grandfather were herded into a small hut and burned alive. Chuol's grandmother later described to me how a group of fighters argued over who would rape a 12-year-old girl. When they could not agree, they shot her dead.

With his mother and grandmother, Chuol fled into the swamp. In the chaos, his mother ran in another direction, and they lost her. For months they did not know if she was dead or alive.

For weeks, he and his grandmother swam and waded through snake-infested waters, dodging crocodiles, eating little more than grass. Chuol was constantly afraid that he might die. If a soldier did not kill him, he thought, an animal surely would.

And if the words and photos are not overwhelming enough, if you have a mobile device, you can also download The New York Times' virtual reality app and explore the stories in immersive detail.

The refugees who make it

It might be easy to think that once refugees reach the United States, everything gets easier. That may be true to the extent that safety and basic necessities are not imperiled as they were, but the streets are still not yet paved with gold — especially if they are settled in an economically depressed area.

The Atlantic says thousands of refugees have settled in Syracuse, New York, but jobs are hard to come by and officials are struggling to meet refugees' needs. Things are even harder for those who come alone and do not have family to rely on or combine limited resources with.

Many stay for a while and find they cannot make it, so they move on to greener pastures — and most often, those pastures are in Minnesota, the magazine says. The state is tops in the nation for secondary migration, with more than 2,200 moving there just last year.

Here's why: "In 2012, only 33 percent of refugees in Arizona were able to find work, and only 25 percent of those in California were employed, while 55 percent of refugees in Minnesota had entered employment in 2012."

Looking for support in a violent time

The situation in South Sudan continues to be grim: Comboni Missionaries there have written an open letter asking for peace as they see the community around them being torn apart. On Nov. 9, an assistant parish priest was shot in the back by armed bandits attempting to ambush a marked hospital vehicle.

When the driver refused to stop, the bandits opened fire, hitting Fr. Placide Majambo and seriously wounding him. He was later taken to Nairobi for surgery, where he is recovering.

To add insult to serious injury, when the missionaries asked local officials for a security escort to take Majambo to the airstrip to be evacuated, they had to pay bribes.

"This was indeed a great shock to us, and led us to feel quite unsupported and disrespected," they wrote. "As Missionaries, we offer our life of service freely to the community to which we are assigned without the wish for any personal gain, but at the human level, we feel there should also be some genuine display of solidarity, support and closeness from the community when such an incident occurs."

Marching for the environment

And finally, the Global Climate March is set for Nov. 29. Officials expect over 1 million people to take part in over 3,000 cities, with a "mega-march" planned for Paris, where world leaders will meet later for the Paris climate summit.

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook.]

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