IRIS in New Haven preparing for Ukrainian refugees

IRIS in New Haven is working to help Ukrainian refugees.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 4:43 PM EST
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NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) – As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flee their homeland each day the question becomes, where will they all go?

While they’re currently seeking refuge in neighboring countries, Connecticut could eventually see some try to start a new life here.

There are large Ukrainian-American communities in both Hartford and Fairfield counties.

As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flee their homeland each day the question becomes, where will they all go?

IRIS in New Haven says six years ago they resettled a small group, including a large family.

While there are no plans just yet, they say they will be ready to help, if called.

For the past week we’ve watched the heartbreaking images of Ukrainians, many of them women and young children, fleeing their country under attack.

“Packing a couple of bags quickly, grabbing their children under their arms, weaving their way around the fighting,” said Chris George.

George is with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, an agency that’s been helping displaced people establish new lives, in a new country for 40 years.

“We have fresh in our minds, the airlift of hundred thousand Afghans from Afghanistan,” George said. “We’ve resettled 450 in about 4 months, so we’ve been very very busy, but if there is a need and if more people come, we stand ready to help them.”

George says the U.S. rarely brings in large numbers of people quickly, and he doesn’t expect that to be the case with the crisis in Ukraine either.

“They will probably do what most refugees do and that is wait in the neighboring countries with assistance from the United Nations and other organizations for long periods of time, hoping to go home, or maybe integrated into the countries they have fled to or as a last resort, being resettled in other countries like the United States,” George said.

But if it gets to that point, Governor Ned Lamont says Connecticut will be ready.

“If there is a need from Ukraine as well, absolutely, we’ll do the right thing. We’ve got a significant Ukrainian population in CT already, New Britain, Stamford, Hartford,” Lamont said.

While his agency monitors the situation thousands of miles away, George says he hopes plenty of others will too.

“It allows Americans to really get a picture of and to understand what refugees go through and hopefully that sympathy, that compassion, that support will be directed towards all refugees,” he said.

While we see the footage from Ukraine George points out, you need to keep in mind there are currently 26 million refugees worldwide, most of them in the Middle East and Africa, that have been waiting for long periods of time to be resettled.