Monday, July 13, 2009

Fear envelops a refuge of immigrants in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine - They are refugees from one of the world’s poorest countries, Sudanese immigrants who flocked to Portland to escape a devastating civil war and settle in a state with a reputation for tolerance and a peaceful way of life.

Since September, two young Sudanese men have been shot and killed, one by Portland police. A third man died from his injuries in November 2007 that Sudanese activists say followed a vicious beating.

The recent killings intensified frictions that had already been on the rise as the city’s African immigrant population has grown. Recently, shots have been fired into a Sudanese home, and confrontations between Sudanese youths and police have escalated. Sudanese leaders are questioning whether police are investigating the violence aggressively enough.

No arrests have been made in the deaths.

“We are scared,’’ said Edward Laboke, 45, a spokesman for the Sudanese community. “Whether we are being targeted or are the victims of random criminal activity, we don’t know.’’