East County Refugee Center

1,800 DISABLED, ELDERLY REFUGEES LOCALLY TO LOSE FEDERAL BENEFITS



Aide workers voice fears over impact of cuts on East County’s growing refugee population; San Diego’s Congressional representatives have thus far declined to take action to extend benefits

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 3, 2010 (San Diego) – Over 3,800 disabled and elderly refugees who came to the U.S. legally, all victims of persecution or torture, have been notified that they will lose Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on October 1st. Those slated to lose benefits include about 1,800 Iraq War refugees living in East County.

 

“They don’t have any other income. They want to find work and they can’t. They are too old and too sick,” said Joseph Ziauddin, president of the East County Refugee Center in El Cajon. Ziauddin estimates that there are around 40,000 Iraqis now living in East County.  Asked how many of East County’s Iraqis are currently refugees, he replied, “Ninety percent.”

SURVIVOR RECALLS HARROWING ESCAPE FROM SADDAM HUSSEIN’S SECRET POLICE PRISON

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2010 (El Cajon ) – Joseph Ziauddin, president of the East County Refugee Center, rolls up his sleeve to reveal deep scars on his forearm acquired during a daring escape. “This saved my life,” said Ziauddin, who said he was thrown in jail and tortured daily for three months because he loaned money to a friend who opposed Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq. “I am the only one who fled from the secret police prison.”

Today, he dedicates his life to helping fellow refugees, teaching English classes at the Refugee Center. He has funded his efforts out of his own pocket, he said, but seeks help for the growing number of refugees in East County. Many of them, like himself, have endured torture or other horrors.