300+ Afghan refugees coming to Connecticut, Lamont says

Photo of Liz Hardaway

As Afghan refugees travel to find peace and stability, Connecticut is welcoming them with open arms, Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday evening.

The White House informed the governor Wednesday afternoon that the state soon will be asked to accept as many as 310 Afghan refugees for resettlement.

Lamont said the Connecticut Department of Social Services will work with partners across state, federal and local governments to make necessary resources available and provide support to the men, women and children coming from Afghanistan.

“I welcome these individuals with open arms into our wonderful state,” Lamont said. “It is our obligation and our duty to ensure these Afghan refugees feel welcome in our state, and we will work to ensure they have everything they need from food and shelter to education and job training.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Lamont’s office that these refugees will have been vetted and have “all necessary vaccinations, including for COVID-19.”

“These evacuees are our allies and have supported our country for years, and it is our turn to return the favor,” Lamont said. “Connecticut has a legacy of being there for those in need, and we are proud to answer the call.”

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a nonprofit resettlement agency based in New Haven, will receive at least 200 refugees and possibly another 100 later on, according to Ann O’Brien, the director of community engagement at IRIS.

The Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, a Bridgeport-based resettlement agency, is also taking in 100 refugees, according to Ashley Gaudiano, CIRI’s director of external affairs.

CIRI has its first Afghan family arriving next week, while IRIS anticipates refugees coming in after the next three weeks. These families will be resettled all throughout Connecticut.

“These are the people that want all the same things in terms of a quiet life, the ability to work in peace and send their kids to school,” O’Brien said. “These are families just like all of us and they have been uprooted in the middle of a conflict zone and deposited on a military base. And they need to feel welcomed and loved.”

IRIS typically receives a couple of families a week, so this is a much higher volume than the agency is used to.

Both agencies usually try to get permanent housing ready before a family’s arrival, but some families might at first need to stay in temporary housing, such as hotels, Airbnbs or churches, depending on how much notice the agencies are given.

IRIS will then move families into affordable apartments furnished with donated goods and, through hundreds of volunteers, help the refugees find jobs, get kids enrolled in school, learn English, navigate the bus system and anything else they need to acclimate into the community.

CIRI’s resettlement team also provides an array of services, such as school enrollment, employment and workforce development, trauma informed case management and legal services.

Both IRIS and CIRI are asking for donations to help accommodate the incoming families, as well as volunteer opportunities.

Gaudiano said it’s vital that Connecticut residents “open their arms, hearts and minds to refugees” to make sure they feel welcome and know they are part of a supportive community.

The state has also joined Welcome.US, a national effort committed to helping Afghan refugees resettle in the United States, according to Lamont’s office.

liz.hardaway@hearst.com