- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

The four Tanzanian Boy Scouts who left the National Scout Jamboree last weekend wanted to stay in the United States to get an American education.
Whether it's the education they envisioned when they sneaked away from the Jamboree is now up to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"They think they will find green pastures [in the United States]," said Mustafa Salim Nyang'anyi, the nation's ambassador to the United States.
Mr. Nyang'anyi said embassy officials learned of the teens' interest in an American education during a telephone conversation with at least one of the boys. He said U.S. officials have prohibited further contact until the INS finishes interviewing the youths.
An embassy staffer added, "The U.S. government is talking directly with the Tanzanian government. We're waiting to hear what comes up."
The four Scouts one 15, one 16 and two 17 were part of a group of nine Scouts who traveled to the United States from their East African homeland to participate in the 10-day National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Va., that ended on Wednesday.
The boys were reported missing from the jamboree on Sunday, and the FBI determined that they had left voluntarily. The four turned up in the District late Monday night, approaching a D.C. police officer on break outside the Juvenile Processing Center at 501 New York Ave. NW.
"Currently we're actively seeking a community-based foster care environment for them to stay in while their case develops," INS spokesman Bill Strassberger said. "At this point, we're helping them by obtaining nongovernment legal representation for them. We're talking about children here."
Mr. Nyang'anyi said an official in Tanzania had been dispatched to assure the youths' families their sons were "in safe hands." He described the families as "hardworking" and wealthy enough to pay for the boys' round-trip airfare.
Claims for asylum generally must be based on persecution, or a well-founded fear of persecution, because of a person's race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group, the agency said.
Tanzania has been politically stable compared with other parts of Africa, having had a two-party democracy since 1992.
The State Department cited the nation of just more than 35 million people as one of the poorer countries on the African continent. Per-capita annual income stood at about $260 last year, and the country is beset by AIDS and refugees from neighboring Burundi and Uganda.
"Sometimes people classify themselves as economic refugees, but the laws in America are not set up to benefit or provide for economic refugees," Mr. Strassberger said. "Poverty is a horrible state of being, but it is not persecution."
The INS is keeping the boys in a secure facility in Northern Virginia so they will "not be able to leave or wander away," he said. "We have an eye out for any smuggling or any nefarious activity."
A tourist visa allows a foreigner into the United States on a signed agreement that the person will leave when the visa expires. "If the person then tries to stay here, it's information we'd sure like to know," Mr. Strassberger said.
But Jo Becker, the children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in New York, said "in our view, [the boys] shouldn't be detained. We've been concerned that the INS has a history of overusing secure detention."
"These are basically juvenile jails," Miss Becker said. "Children being held by the INS are often commingling with children who have been charged with assault or rape."
Mr. Strassberger said, "This is a problem we always have, in general, with minors. We looked at other options, but that would mean splitting the boys up."
Early in the week, Virginia State Police said they believed one of the boys may have a brother living in Maryland. The INS and the FBI would not confirm that claim.
"In our interviews, we have not been made aware of any of the four having family members in the USA," Mr. Strassberger said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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