New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

‘A huge task in front of us’

State prepares to welcome 300+ Afghan refugees

- By Julia Bergman

“It’s our job to welcome them given where they are coming from, given the trauma that they have been through, to make sure that they get the old Connecticu­t welcome.” Gov. Ned Lamont

A public-private task force is already working to assist in resettling more than 300 Afghan refugees in Connecticu­t, helping them with everything from finding housing to connecting them with workforce developmen­t programs and child care.

“It’s our job to welcome them — given where they are coming from, given the trauma that they have been through — to make sure that they get the old Connecticu­t welcome,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday at a news conference outside the state Capitol on the state’s plans to resettle the refugees.

The Lamont administra­tion received word from the federal government Wednesday afternoon that it would soon be asked to accept as many as 310 Afghan refugees.

The first refugees could arrive as soon as next week. Some of them will be evacuees who made it out of the country amid the Taliban takeover following the U.S. military’s withdraw from the 20-year war — a chaotic exit that left many refugees and American citizens scrambling to get out.

Connecticu­t’s refugee resettleme­nt agencies say the level and pace at which the Afghans is an undertakin­g that will require government and private resources. Housing, volunteers, and donations are among the most immediate needs.

“It’s a huge task in front of us,” said Chris George, executive director at Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services which has offices in Hartford and in New Haven.

IRIS asks the community groups that it trains to reset

tle refugees to raise at least $15,000 a year for a family that does not have authorizat­ion to work in the U.S. right away, and that doesn’t include the cost of housing.

For families who can work when they get here, IRIS asks the groups to raise between $6,000 to $12,000 to cover the cost of food, clothing and other basic needs.

While many in Connecticu­t have stepped up to help by offering to host Afghan families, “given the myriad of circumstan­ces, it is best if we could find apartments so families could live independen­tly, start their lives together and their healing process as a family unit,” said Susan Shnitzer, president and CEO of the Bridgeport-based Connecticu­t Institute for Immigrants and Refugees.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat who was among first elected officials to say he would welcome Afghan refugees to the city, emphasized that the effort should be bipartisan.

“There may not be all that many issues right now that aren’t the subject of political division, but this should be an issue on which every American is united,” Bronin said.

Alex Plitsas, a Republican from Fairfield who helped Afghans evacuate, echoed his sentiments.

“As Mayor Bronin put it, this is not a political issue. This is a moral one and we have a solemn obligation to stand by those who stood by us for the last 20 years,” Plitsas said.

Addressing “unfortunat­e rumors” that have circulatin­g, Plitsas said the refugees coming here have gone through U.S. processing centers and undergone full background checks.

“These are people who are good. They served alongside of us. They pose no threat,” he said. “They have earned their place here. They share our values and we as Connecticu­t residents have a moral obligation to help take care of them.”

 ??  ?? Christian Abraham / Hearst Conn. Media
Christian Abraham / Hearst Conn. Media

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