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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    From Somalia to Sonora: refugees at the Loft

    What’s it like to live like a refugee? Find out Wednesday, Jan. 31, when The Loft Cinema hosts a very important group of people in Tucson: the Somali Bantu refugees.

    The Loft will be hosting the world premiere for “”Iskash*taa: An Invitation to Community,”” directed by Lauren Swain. The film examines the lives of Tucson-based refugees as well as the Iskash*taa Refugee Harvest Network, a local organization set up to aid the refugees.

    The nation of Somalia has been in domestic strife for over 16 years now. According to U.S. Department of State statistics, 30 percent of refugees who ended up resettling in America came from countries in Africa like Somalia. The United States has resettled more than 12,000 refugees in more than 50 cities throughout the country.

    Barbara Eiswerth, refugee liaison for the Iskash*taa Refugee Harvest Network, said the increase in refugees from this area has to do with the level of violence in the region.

    “”There is a quota for each country, and the quota is based on an evaluation of the conflict,”” Eiswerth said.

    Although the process has slowed considerably since Sept. 11, the quota changes every year – and is never met.

    Tucson has 300 to 400 primary resettled refugees straight from their countries of origin, and more

    Tucson is a great place for integrating into society, and the cost of living is pretty low.
    – Barbara Eiswerth
    refugee liaison for the Iskash taa Refugee Harvest Network

    than 500 secondary refugees, or families who have settled elsewhere in the United States and have moved to Tucson. Eiswerth said the reason so many refugees live here is because “”Tucson is a great place for integrating into society, and the cost of living is pretty low.””

    The IRHN began as an effort to use agriculture to create a community that could thrive in Western society, but has now expanded to include things like tailoring and various crafts, such as weaving and beading. The refugees speak Maay Maay, pronounced “”my my,”” and due to the efforts of the First United Church of Christ, they are learning to speak English very well.

    The Wednesday screening will also include a preview to Swain’s upcoming film “”Somali Bantu: A New Home, A New Life.”” It will also contain a10-minute trailer for the award-winning documentary “”Rain in a Dry Land,”” which will appear this May on PBS.

    The night will also include Somali musicians playing a stringed instrument called a “”shareera,”” and crafts and food will be for sale on the Loft patio. Tickets are $10 and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.

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