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Somali asylum seeker volunteers in local German fire brigade

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UNHCR — “When people are in need of help at a certain time and I am in the right place to provide it, this makes me happy,” he said.
Then, in 2014, Yusuf was forced to flee again, this time to escape being forcibly recruited into Yemen’s own conflict. After a long journey, he arrived in Germany in July 2015 – but his wife and two children are still trapped in Yemen.

With his experience as a volunteer, it seemed natural for Yusuf to put himself forward for service in Germany. When his German teacher suggested the idea of the volunteer fire brigade, he jumped at the chance. It has also helped Yusuf. Not a man who likes to sit still, the voluntary work challenges him and helps to ease his worries about his family for a few hours. Today, his German is better than his English and he can talk with his colleagues freely.

And he has already played a key role. Last year, the local fire brigade was repeatedly called to accommodation centres for asylum-seekers in Stahnsdorf and Oranienburg because residents were accidentally setting off the fire alarms.
Yusuf was able to explain to them in Arabic and Somali how the alarm system worked, as well as where the assembly points and escape routes were in case of fire. In fact, he has made such a difference that the ‘Ohne Blaulicht’ (Without the Blue Light) project, organized by the Brandenburg Fire Brigade Association with government funding, will now be extended to other accommodation centres.

“We are grateful for their support.”

Jörn Müller, fire chief in Fürstenwalde, has been happy to welcome Yusuf and other newcomers into his brigade. “We are grateful for their support,” added Hans-Ulrich Hengst, Mayor of Fürstenwalde.

Hartmut Ziebs, President of the German Fire Brigade Association, is also a strong supporter of Germany’s 3,000 refugee firefighters and the positive impact they have had, calling such integration efforts “important and meaningful”.

The country’s voluntary fire brigades, with their 1.1 million members, are deeply rooted in German society, especially in the countryside. They have the ability to form bonds between newcomers and locals unlike any other organization and are a place to learn German and establish contacts that can help new arrivals find work and become financially independent.

Yusuf will receive his new firefighter’s uniform, a sturdy, sand-coloured protective suit with red reflective strips that is tailored to his measurements. The firefighter in charge of allocating uniforms adds a helmet and safety boots to Yusuf’s equipment – an investment in those members of the brigade “who have proven themselves”, he said and smiled.

FURSTENWALDE, Germany – In the vehicle bay of Fürstenwalde-Mitte fire station, a young volunteer checks the gears of a large fire engine. Yusuf Abdirahim, a 37-year-old asylum-seeker, knows what he is doing. He has been a member of this brigade for almost as long as he has been in Germany.

Volunteer firefighters like him come to the station in Fürstenwalde, a small town an hour’s drive from Berlin, for training once a week. An instructor named Sebastian is asking each of them to explain how the equipment functions.

Yusuf has already completed a basic training course called ‘Truppmann 1’, but before he can go on his first real rescue or firefighting mission, he must pass more exams and improve his German. In emergency situations, knowing how to communicate effectively can mean the difference between life and death.

When people are in need of help… I am in the right place to provide it.”
However, Yusuf is no stranger to danger, or to working in the service of others.

Born in Somalia, he and his family fled the conflict to Yemen when he was only 11. There, he attended school and started a family before joining the Yemen Red Crescent Society in 2011, for which he distributed medical aid.

“When people are in need of help at a certain time and I am in the right place to provide it, this makes me happy,” he said.
Then, in 2014, Yusuf was forced to flee again, this time to escape being forcibly recruited into Yemen’s own conflict. After a long journey, he arrived in Germany in July 2015 – but his wife and two children are still trapped in Yemen.

With his experience as a volunteer, it seemed natural for Yusuf to put himself forward for service in Germany. When his German teacher suggested the idea of the volunteer fire brigade, he jumped at the chance. It has also helped Yusuf. Not a man who likes to sit still, the voluntary work challenges him and helps to ease his worries about his family for a few hours. Today, his German is better than his English and he can talk with his colleagues freely.

And he has already played a key role. Last year, the local fire brigade was repeatedly called to accommodation centres for asylum-seekers in Stahnsdorf and Oranienburg because residents were accidentally setting off the fire alarms.
Yusuf was able to explain to them in Arabic and Somali how the alarm system worked, as well as where the assembly points and escape routes were in case of fire. In fact, he has made such a difference that the ‘Ohne Blaulicht’ (Without the Blue Light) project, organized by the Brandenburg Fire Brigade Association with government funding, will now be extended to other accommodation centres.

“We are grateful for their support.”

Jörn Müller, fire chief in Fürstenwalde, has been happy to welcome Yusuf and other newcomers into his brigade. “We are grateful for their support,” added Hans-Ulrich Hengst, Mayor of Fürstenwalde.

Hartmut Ziebs, President of the German Fire Brigade Association, is also a strong supporter of Germany’s 3,000 refugee firefighters and the positive impact they have had, calling such integration efforts “important and meaningful”.

The country’s voluntary fire brigades, with their 1.1 million members, are deeply rooted in German society, especially in the countryside. They have the ability to form bonds between newcomers and locals unlike any other organization and are a place to learn German and establish contacts that can help new arrivals find work and become financially independent.

Yusuf will receive his new firefighter’s uniform, a sturdy, sand-coloured protective suit with red reflective strips that is tailored to his measurements. The firefighter in charge of allocating uniforms adds a helmet and safety boots to Yusuf’s equipment – an investment in those members of the brigade “who have proven themselves”, he said and smiled.

Diaspora

The Democratic Party candidates for Senate : ‘Landlord legislator’ faces 2 challenges – Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan

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The Democratic Party candidates for Senate District 24 visited Rockwood to discuss the issues facing their constituents and answer audience questions ahead of the May 15 primary.

Incumbent Sen. Rod Monroe was joined by his two primary challengers Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan. The event was hosted by the Multnomah County Democrats on Wednesday night, Jan. 17, at the Rosewood Initiative, 16126 S.E. Stark St. The candidates spoke before an engaged crowd of about 60 voters, who clapped and cheered throughout the evening.

District 24 encompasses east Portland, including parts of the Centennial neighborhood, and north Clackamas County.

Monroe is a retired teacher and co-chairman of the Ways and Means Education subcommittee. His top priority is to stop teacher layoffs, reduce class sizes and improve nutrition options for students. He also is working to improve transportation safety and efficiency, and keep drivers under the influence off the roads. Monroe, who first claimed a seat in the Legislature more than 40 years ago, has championed health and safety regulations.

Jama is a community-based leader who was born in Somalia. As an immigrant to the United States, he wants to support those in achieving the “American Dream.” He is an advocate for those experiencing poverty, displaced workers, women, people of color, native people, immigrants and refugees, the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities. One of his main focuses is bringing more diversity into positions of power within the community.

Fagan is a former representative who served two terms in the Oregon House before stepping down last year to focus on her family and career as an employment lawyer. She also has served on the David Douglas School Board. Fagan has worked on sidewalk and safety improvements for East Portland streets and tenant protection legislation. Her two main goals are securing more affordable housing and protecting people’s access to healthcare.

Audience questions

The main portion of the debate consisted of the candidates addressing questions from the people who came to hear them:

How does taking financial support affect campaigns?

Jama: We need to remove money from our politics if we want a true democracy.

Monroe: I have voted for every attempt at campaign reform. I have never traded my vote for anything — ever. There are no strings attached to any dollars given to my campaign.

Fagan: Democracies function on principals of accountability. Working people and parents can’t spend half their time raising money.

What are your plans for public transit?

Monroe: We need North-South bus routes in the outer Portland area. TriMet has assured me they will put those routes in place with the funding they have received.

Fagan: Public transit is an incredible opportunity. Bigger freeways don’t solve traffic problems, so being smart and not passing the cost along to the people we are trying to help is critical.”

Jama: Transit has to be accessible and affordable for all people. It’s time for corporations to pay their fair share. One thing proposed is tolls, but that means someone displaced from Portland will now have to pay to use the roads to get to work.

How do you plan to support kids in poverty?

Jama: 60,000 kids are homeless in this state. We have to work hard to support the families struggling to pay their services and find housing.

Monroe: I have been responsible for childhood and women’s rights programs. I was the author of three major nutrition programs, because these kids get their nutrition from our schools.

Fagan: Small class sizes and after-school programs are when teachers can see when kids need more support. We also have to better fund summer programs, because that is when children in poverty fall further behind.

How would you deal with addiction treatment?

Fagan: This is a crisis in our state, and when I was in the legislature we passed the good Samaritan law so someone can stay and help a person going through an overdoes without facing charges.

Jama: We need to treat addiction as a public health issue. It’s not a criminal charge, and we need to stop treating it as one.

Monroe: Mental health addiction on opioids is a national problem, not just an Oregon one. We need more mental health facilities.

How will you engage with diversity?

Jama: This is an easy one for me. I have brought diverse communities of immigrants and people of color together to build a strong movement.

Monroe: Our neighborhoods are becoming more diverse, which I think is a great thing.

Fagan: Even the strongest among us is no replacement for proportional representation for people of color.

Why are you running?

Monroe: I am running because of experience, which makes a difference. I have a history of working across the aisle to get things done.

Fagan: Too many of us are fighting for the stability of a normal life, and the senate has become a place where progressive ideas go to die. As a mother of two kids, I cannot wait another day for the senate to do better.

Jama: I remember trying to advocate in Salem and seeing how it is broken. I am mad as hell and want to make sure we build people’s power in this community.

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Diaspora

White men in bomb plot won’t get more Trump voters on jury, after judge denies request

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A judge on Wednesday said no to three Kansas residents who requested to have Trump voters on their jury as they’re tried for attempting to bomb a mosque and a Somali refugee community.

Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen were denied their request to include voters from a Trump-voting region in Kansas in their jury pool. The three men will be tried in the city of Wichita for plotting to use truck bombs in an apartment complex with a Somali refugee population and a mosque on the day after the 2016 presidential election, in Garden City, Kansas.

The jury pool will draw from Wichita and Hutchinson, more urban areas than Garden City, but Wright, Stein and Allen wanted people who “live in rural areas and are more politically conservative,” according to High Plains Public Radio.
They asked to draw from 28 counties in Dodge City, located in western Kansas. District Judge Eric Melgren said that their request did not have a legal basis, and they did not show that the current jury pool areas would discriminate against Republicans.

The men are charged with conspiracy against civil rights and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and they have pleaded not guilty. Their defense lawyers allege the men were exercising their free speech rights and right to bear arms.

The thinking behind the request, according to the lawyer, was that one area’s residents have different beliefs and would be able to understand the men’s motives. In one area, two-thirds of residents voted for Trump, and in the other area the men wanted to pool from, three-fourths of residents voted for the Republican, according to Mercury News.

The men were part of a group connected to the “Kansas Security Force,” a local militia group, prosecutors said. According to prosecutors and a wiretap transcript they obtained, Wright said he wanted the attack on Somalis in Kansas to “wake people up,” the publication added.

At the time, the government said that setting that precedent for the jury pool would “wreak havoc” and open a “dangerous door” to similar jury pool requests. The trial, which was scheduled to start in February, is set to begin on March 19 in Wichita, according to the Associated Press

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Columbus, Ohio

Judge set to sentence Ohio man who plotted US attacks

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COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Friday is scheduled to sentence an Ohio man who plotted to kill military members in the U.S. following a delay in the case when a previous judge withdrew.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. as a child, was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty to plotting those attacks after becoming radicalized in Syria. The attacks were never carried out.

The government said Mohamud became a citizen to obtain a U.S. passport. He bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Prosecutors, who are seeking a 23-year sentence, said Mohamud wanted to travel to Texas and capture three or four soldiers and execute them. They said Mohamud, now 26, was trained in Syria and tried to cover up dangerous terrorist activity.

Mohamud and his lawyer, in asking for leniency, have said Mohamud had realized “the immoral and illegal nature of terrorist ideology” and abandoned any plans to engage in terrorism.

Mohamud’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, is asking Judge Michael Watson to consider the light sentence a federal judge in Minnesota handed down in 2016 to a Minnesota man.

In that case, Abdullahi Yusuf, just 20 at the time of sentencing, was convicted of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Syria. Yusuf, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against others, was sentenced to time served in jail of 21 months, plus two decades of supervised release.

Mohamud was originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. Judge James Graham started that hearing, but in a surprise move, he announced he was delaying it to gather more information, including Mohamud’s current state of mind.

Graham also said he wanted information about possible treatment programs for Mohamud during and after prison.

Graham ordered a psychological evaluation of Mohamud and set a new sentencing date. But in December, Graham abruptly withdrew from the case without explanation.

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