More war refugees finding safety in Connecticut

A Syrian young woman leans on the door through which refugees cross for Macedonia in the Greek border station of Idomeni, Sunday Feb. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Thousands of refugees flee their homes every day from war-torn areas heading for Europe or Canada. Here in the U.S., we’re slated to accept 85,000, and with the help of a local organization, Connecticut is settling hundreds this year alone.

That pledge by the Obama administration to accept 85,000 refugees is up from 70,000 last year. Because of violence and persecution the world 65 million displaced people, more than at any time in history.

It’s moving day in New Haven. The newest city residents will travel thousands of miles, and cross an ocean before moving into their Winchester Avenue apartment.

“We’re moving furniture in, setting up beds,” said Bethany Delahunt, housing coordinator with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven. “Going to move mattresses in soon.”

The new tenants can call themselves survivors. They escaped civil war and refugee camps before finding safety here in Connecticut. Like Louay Alqabbani, who recently landed in New Haven last month.

“I am playing football, soccer, boxing and swimming,” Alqabanni said about his time here so far. “I love swimming.”

Alqabbani is a 24 year-old Syrian refugee. He escaped the devastating, five-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands. He’s learning English quickly, but relies on an Arabic interpreter.

“He say he likes it here because it’s not war,” Alqabanni’s interpreter said. “Not fighting. Everything safe here. America is a very good country.”

Refugee placement is up all over the country and Connecticut is on pace to settle more refugees here than any other year. It’s expected that 800 refugees will pass through IRIS New Haven.

Aamir Elbashir is a contract worker with IRIS. He’s helping get the apartment ready for a Syrian family of six that will move in Friday. Elbashir himself is a refugee from Sudan, who fled the country with his wife and young son ten years ago during the Sudanese civil war.

“I say thank you America and thank you IRIS because you help me about that,” Elbashir said in broken English, grateful to be in New Haven.

Nearly 35 local community and faith-based organizations also helped with donations and settling of the refugees. IRIS said refugees are vetted in a rigorous process that takes several years. And that Syrian refugees receive extra scrutiny for security reasons.

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