More than 60 foreign nationals who fled Kuwait last weekend in search of security on American soil refused an offer yesterday by the federal government to be sheltered at a resettlement agency in Carroll County.
The foreigners -- mostly Middle Easterners -- arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last weekend with no money, no place to live and no relatives to turn to for help in this country.
They have spent the week at the airport's Sheraton Hotel, paid for with money that was lent to them by the federal government. Yesterday afternoon officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offered to move the foreigners and their children to the New Windsor Service Center in Carroll County, which has resettled over 10,000 refugees in the last 10 years.
But, disappointed with the accommodations, the foreigners unanimously decided to refuse the government's offer and venture out on their own to start their new lives.
"I have five small children, including one who is 45 days old," said a Jordanian woman who identified herself as Fadia. "At New Windsor, there is only one bathroom to be shared by several people. How can I take my babies back and forth for baths or to change diapers? And, there are no schools there for my children."
The woman, who had earned an M.B.A. at Texas A&M; University, added, "I wish I had stayed in Kuwait. Right now I feel like it might have been better just to die there." In the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, several of the foreigners -- who were permitted to come to this country because they have at least one child who was born here -- said the government offered to provide them with one-way tickets to any domestic destination if they refused to go to New Windsor. But all were told that they had to leave the Sheraton by this afternoon.
Fadia said she, her husband and her children would go to Philadelphia today and seek social service assistance there.
"I've never been there, and I don't have any friends there, but I heard it's a nice city and it's not too far away," she said. "I can't travel anymore."
Another foreigner, who refused to give his name, said he planned to goto Texas where he earned his Ph.D. and seek the help of former professors. He said he and eight other foreign nationals toured the New Windsor facility on Tuesdayand all agreed life there would not be acceptable.
"We are here because our children are American," said the 47-year-old educator. "If we had been given what we believe was the minimum amount necessary to live, we would have gladly accepted it. But we know they can offer more than this.
"And we are not asking for charity," he emphasized. "Every penny we get, we'd pay back as soon as we got on the right track."
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said he could not comment because he had not been made aware of the predicament.
Yesterday, officials of the Maryland Department of Human Resources said the federal government had offered to pay for a 30-day contract with the New Windsor Service Center -- where workers would assist the adults in finding housing and jobs.
On Tuesday, all the adults were granted six-month work permits by the INS, but officials there still hadn't determined what would happen to the foreign nationals at the end of that time.
Fadia said that to find a job, she and her husband, also a Jordanian, would need reliable transportation and day-care services -- neither of which was offered at New Windsor.
When we left Kuwait, I told a woman at the U.S. Embassy that we had no money, no relatives and no place to live in this country," she said. "The woman told me not to worry because the government here would stand behind us until we found good jobs.
4 "Now it seems that we are on our own," she said.
Another foreign national said that he was grateful for the government's efforts to evacuate him, but was disappointed that no Arab-American groups have come forward to help. "We are not telling the American government that their offer is not good enough and demanding more," said one man who identified himself as Eddie. "We have told them thanks for helping this far, but from now on we are going to try to make it on our own."