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OPINION: Embassy in Washington DC is a let down to needy Kenyans in US

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The cry for help by athletics legend Henry Rono to get help to return home to Kenya from the US won’t be the first or the last. There was also that of Mr Timothy Majanja, a Kenyan who had migrated to Canada and the US over 40 years previously but ended up homeless. He eventually died in poverty in Atlanta.

Both cases were highlighted by the Kenyan media. The response to help for the gentlemen has mostly come from ordinary Kenyans and, in the case of Mr Rono, Athletics Kenya showed willingness to support him. None, if at all, came from Kenya’s consulate where the two men fell under.

The inertia in our foreign missions is the same. There has been hue and cry from diaspora Kenyans about lack of necessary services and support by our diplomats.

DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS

One of the most important roles diplomatic missions play is to offer consular assistance to its citizens in the diaspora. That does not begin and end with issuance of passports and other travel documents. They are also meant to be there for citizens in distress abroad.

The plight of Mr Rono and Mr Majanja is experienced by many Kenyans stuck abroad due to economic hardship. The diaspora community continues to remit to this country billions of shillings yearly.

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This group has become our best export and their continued contribution to the national economy is commendable.

However, their financial success may not always be static and they could fall on hard times. Our missions need to be there for them during these hard times too.

But from the avalanche of complaints from Kenyans in the diaspora, there is very little support for them. Clearly, if those who contribute to the economy so much struggle to access services in our missions, I would imagine unsuccessful Kenyan immigrants abroad will be the last to get any help.

NEPOTISM

The missions have a duty of care to the citizens. A career diplomat would understand basic rules in diplomacy, including duty to the citizens. But they have been accused of incompetence due to their having been turned into dumping grounds for failures at home or conduits for nepotism and cronyism.

The dual nationality question that cropped up during the vetting of nominees for diplomatic posts highlighted the issue of loyalty. Although this is a valid point as far as nominees with dual citizenship are concerned, it is also indicative of the overall character of our foreign missions.

The loyalty of most of those appointed through political patronage is to the appointing individual rather than to Country.

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Appointing non-career diplomats oftentimes just offers individuals and their families a long sightseeing holiday to a foreign country. They add no value to the diplomatic table as they lack the skills and tools required of a bona fide diplomat.

DIPLOMACY

Standard at our missions won’t be improved by training appointees in how to eat with a knife and fork. Diplomacy is not just about eating. Many non-career diplomats from Africa have walked into the haze of diplomatic immunity by breaching laws in their host countries. Taking immunity as cover for all sorts of misdemeanours, they engage in fraud, rape and slavery.

Some unqualified diplomats have even been unable to articulate basic diplomatic issues at press conferences, embarrassing their countries.

Our diplomats should have more roles to play for those in the diaspora than hosting nyama choma and beer festivals on Jamhuri Day. It is fine to make merry but the serious work required of the diplomats is duty to Kenyans. It is also a platform to be used to increase foreign investment.

Our missions are the face of Kenya and ought to be run by experienced career diplomats able to market the country effectively and articulate our foreign policy. They also need to be reduced in size to make them cost-effective. In this Digital Age, it makes no sense to have missions in just about any country.

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Why not have key missions in countries that are strategically important to us in terms of investment and amalgamate the rest into lean consular offices?

FOREIGN POLICIES

Kenya’s success is, equally, dependent on an effective foreign mission that can articulate our foreign policies well with a qualified experienced career diplomat in charge. Dumping non-deserving people there shows lack of seriousness in our foreign policy and is akin to trying to fly without wings!

* * *

The ongoing rush for e-passports should never have happened. It is causing unnecessary anxiety and panic among Kenyans. If the government were serious with their deadline, why did they not provide many more centres to speed it up?

The large crowds outside the few immigration centres pose A security threat too as far as terrorism goes and the queues make a field day for bribe-hungry immigration officers. It is sheer tortious. I hope somebody isn’t sleeping on the job, making Kenyans to pay for their incompetence!

-BY KALTUM GUYO

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Diaspora

Kenyans among 300 people arrested over international online scams

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A global operation targeting online scams has led to nearly 300 arrests in 12 countries including Kenya.

According to Voice of America, the suspects include 167 from Nigeria, 74 in the United States, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana.

Other arrests were in Turkey, Ghana, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and Britain.

A statement from the U.S Justice Department (DOJ) said: “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams.  Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world,” the statement reads.

The four month operation was led by the DOJ and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

During the operation, $3.7 million (Ksh.384million) was recovered, the U.S Justice Department (DOJ) said.

Christopher Wray, the FBI director warned: ”We’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes.”

The DOJ listed some of the scams that the fraudsters used to con their victims:

  • Romance scams
  • Employment opportunities scams,
  • Fraudulent online vehicle sales scams
  • Rental scams
  • Lottery scams

Among those arrested in Nigeria were 77 Nigerian suspects recently indicted in the United States on conspiracy charges of swindling businesses and individuals through a variety of internet scams, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said.

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The Nigerians allegedly used so-called Business Email Compromise schemes, “romance fraud” and schemes targeting the elderly to steal millions of dollars from their victims in the United States and elsewhere before transferring the funds to Nigeria through an extensive money laundering network, according to a 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed last month.

Others arrested during the recent operation face similar charges.

In the southern U.S. state of Georgia, two Nigerian nationals were arrested in connection with fraudulently directing a transfer of $3.5 million from a health care provider to accounts across the United States. In Miami, two others were charged with laundering more than $950,000 of proceeds of BEC scams and recruiting about 18 others to serve as “money mules.”

Widely used by Nigerian fraudsters, Business Email Compromise schemes involve targeting employees with access to company finances and tricking them into making unauthorized wire transfers into accounts controlled by swindlers.

$26 billion online scam

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Business Email Compromise is a $26 billion online scam. Last year, BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise, resulted in losses of nearly $1.3 billion, nearly twice as much as 2017.

Operation reWired was part of the Justice Department’s intensified efforts in recent years to crack down on internet financial fraud. Among other measures, the department has set up an internal BEC Counteraction Group to coordinate cases.

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Through the arrests, “we’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes: We’ll keep coming after you, no matter where you are,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “And to the public, we’ll keep doing whatever we can to protect you.”

U.S. and Nigerian officials credited the mass arrests to close cooperation and coordination between their law enforcement agencies.

“Our efforts in coordinating the EFCC/FBI joint operations in Nigeria recorded tremendous successes” against “the infamous yahoo-yahoo boys,” said the EFCC’s director of information, Mohammed Abba, according to AFP.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said the Justice Department has “increased efforts” to combat cyber-enabled financial crimes.

“The coordinated efforts with our domestic and international law enforcement partners around the world has made these most recent actions more successful,” Rosen said.

U.S. officials didn’t say whether they have asked Nigerian authorities to extradite the suspects wanted in multiple U.S. jurisdictions from California to Florida.

Hassan Mohammed Hassan, Nigeria’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., told VOA last month that Nigeria will consider any extradition request based on a “verifiable” case.

Last year, a law enforcement operation aimed at BEC scams resulted in the arrest of 74 people and the seizure of $2.4 million, according to the Justice Department.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Trump orders crackdown on countries whose most citizens overstay their visas in US

-AGENCIES

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Diaspora

USCIS Announces Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Opportunities

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is accepting applications for two funding opportunities under the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program that will provide up to $10 million in grants for citizenship preparation programs in communities across the country.

These competitive grant opportunities are open to organizations that prepare lawful permanent residents for naturalization and promote civic assimilation through increased knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics.

USCIS seeks to expand availability of high-quality citizenship and assimilation services throughout the country with these two grant opportunities:

  • Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services. (PDF) This grant opportunity will fund up to 36 organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful permanent residents. Applications are due by Aug. 13, 2019.
  • The Refugee and Asylee Assimilation Program. (PDF) This grant opportunity will fund up to four organizations to provide individualized services to lawful permanent residents who entered the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program or were granted asylum. These services will help them to obtain the skills and knowledge required for successful citizenship and to foster a sense of belonging and attachment to the United States. This grant strives to promote long-term civic assimilation of those lawful permanent residents who have identified naturalization as a goal, yet may need additional information, instruction and services to attain it. Applications are due by Aug. 13, 2019.
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USCIS will take into account various program and organizational factors, including past grantee performance, when making final award decisions. In addition, all funded grant recipients must enroll in E-Verify as a regular employer within 30 days of receiving the award and remain as a participant in good standing with E-Verify throughout the entire period of grant performance. Funded grant recipients will be required to verify all new hires at hiring locations performing work on a program or activity that is funded in whole or in part under the grant.

USCIS expects to announce award recipients in September.

Since it began in 2009, the USCIS Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program has awarded approximately $82 million through 393 grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

To apply for one of these funding opportunities, visit grants.gov. For additional information on the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program for fiscal year 2019, visit uscis.gov/grants or email the USCIS Office of Citizenship at citizenshipgrantprogram@uscis.dhs.gov.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook (/uscis).

 

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Diaspora

US welcomed 756,000 new Citizens last year, set to welcome 34,000 this month

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WASHINGTON—Did you know that more than 756,000 people became new U.S. citizens in 2018? That’s one new citizen every 42 seconds! Share in the celebration during Constitution Week.

USCIS announced Friday that it will celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by welcoming nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens during 316 naturalization ceremonies across the nation between Sept. 13 and 23.

The USCIS Constitution Week activities will feature a naturalization ceremony at the DAR Constitution Hall on Sept. 17, where USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli will administer the Oath of Allegiance and provide congratulatory remarks to 1,000 new U.S. citizens. View a list of other notable 2019 Constitution Week-themed naturalization ceremonies.

“Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our great country adopted the United States Constitution, and as we celebrate Constitution Week, it is important to underscore the significance of citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution,” said Acting Director Cuccinelli. “These nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens followed the law on their path to naturalization and now call the U.S. home. I can think of no better way to celebrate Constitution Week than to welcome thousands of new U.S. citizens who have assimilated, made a commitment to our great country, and have vowed to support the Constitution.”

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On Sept. 17, the nation observes Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, as part of Constitution Week (Sept. 17 to 23 this year). The commemoration honors both the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and an observance that began in 1940 as “I Am an American Day.” Citizenship Day began in 1952, based on a law signed by President Harry Truman, and in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the first Constitution Week.

This time of year serves as an opportunity to celebrate the connection between the Constitution and citizenship and reflect on the meaning of becoming a citizen of the United States. USCIS welcomes approximately 650,000 to 750,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world. In fiscal year 2018, USCIS naturalized more than 756,000 people, a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship.

To help applicants prepare to become U.S. citizens, USCIS provides study materials and resources available through the Citizenship Resource Center. In addition, the only official USCIS Civics Test application, USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools, is a mobile app that challenges users’ civic knowledge and is currently available for download in the Google Play and iTunes stores.

Following each naturalization ceremony, USCIS encourages new U.S. citizens and their families and friends to share their naturalization photos on social media using the hashtags #newUScitizen, #ConstitutionWeek, and #WethePeople.

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For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow them on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

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