U.S. students visit Emerson
THE journalism students from a prestigious Ivy League school have travelled to Paris and Athens, and plans are in the works to visit Berlin. This week, they visited one of richest places in the world for reporting on refugee resettlement: Manitoba.
“This is rich,” Princeton University journalism instructor Deb Amos said during a day trip to Altona. Amos, who covers immigration for National Public Radio when she’s not teaching at the renowned private university, travelled to Winnipeg with nine of her students to learn more about Canada’s approach to resettling refugees and its attitude toward those seeking asylum.
The school trip to Manitoba wasn’t a hard sell to administration at the New Jersey institution that posts an estimated cost of attendance for the 2018-19 school year at US$70,010 (CDN$89,672).
“I think they wanted to do something that wasn’t Paris,” said Amos, who’s camped out with her students at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Winnipeg.
On Wednesday, they took a day trip to southern Manitoba, stopping in Emerson to see where more than 800 asylum-seekers this year have walked into Canada to ask for refugee status, and to hear Emerson-Franklin Reeve Greg Janzen’s concerns about strangers showing up on people’s doors in the middle of the night.
“There’s an impulse to want to be welcoming and nice to people and, at the same time, an unhappiness about the way people are coming,” said history major Toby Stoner from South Bend, Ind.
The group then headed west to Altona to meet with resettled refugees and the church sponsors who welcomed them, at a lunch catered by a Syrian chef who arrived in Canada with his family two years ago.
“It’s an opportunity to see everyone’s perspective,” said Ferdose Idris of Seattle, who is working towards her PhD in sociology. Arabic-speaking Idris interviewed several of the Syrian women in their first language and their Arabic interpreter, Amal Abulraidah, who arrived in Altona in 2010 unable to speak English.
Abulraidah said volunteers in the community have helped the newcomers learn the language, find employment, get driver’s licences and make friends.
“It’s really inspiring to see,” Idris said.
Anthropology major Francesca Billington of Los Angeles sat beside Ahlam Dib — the first Syrian refugee she had ever met — and got a first-hand account of resettling in a faraway place.
“She packed one whole suitcase full of hijab because she was told she wouldn’t find any (in Canada),” said Billington, who jotted notes while taking in Dib’s story and bites of shawarma.
The students have been posting daily reports on a blog (http://commons.princeton.edu/manitoba-migration). Several have noted a stark contrast between Manitoba’s welcoming attitude towards newcomers — even with a Conservative government — and authorities in the U.S. trying to keep, and even kick, them out.
— Carol Sanders