HARTFORD, Conn. — The state is preparing to welcome more than 300 Afghan refugees to Connecticut starting next week.
Officials gathered at the State Capitol Friday morning to talk about the resources made available for them once they arrive.
Gov. Ned Lamont said he doesn’t have an exact date yet. He is hoping next week that we will see the first arrivals. The first 310 refugees are fully vetted and fully vaccinated.
These refugees have fled to escape the Taliban with hopes of finding a better life in the United States. Officials reassured they are fully vetted and vaccinated.
"This is not republican and democrat. This is about what it means to be American," said Mayor Luke Bronin of the City of Hartford.
Mayor Bronin encouraged Connecticut residents to welcome these Afghan refugees with open arms and called them allies.
"The hundreds of Bosnian refugees who made Hartford their home in the 90s, the hundreds of Karen who made Hartford their home in more recent years. We’re better for it," added Mayor Bronin.
Alex Plitsas, an Afghan war veteran himself helped families evacuate. His efforts, known as 'Digital Dunkirk,' involved a network of people with Afghan contacts.
As someone whose life was at the mercy of the Taliban, he owes his survival to an Afghan interpreter.
"My life was saved on more than one occasion by an Afghan who chose to come out and help interpret for me when I was doing intelligence work the same thing in Iraq as well," Plitsas of Fairfield told FOX61.
Susan Schnitzer with the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI) said the average Afghan family is five people with an approximate total of up to 70 families.
She said some children will be arriving by themselves, but they will soon be reunited with their families.
"These folks are coming with probably just the clothing on their backs and there’s a lot of folks who come here have tremendous amount of trauma. This is very fresh trauma," Schnitzer added.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said the state has always welcomed refugees with "open arms" and he is proud the legacy can continue.
"The Afghan men, women and children arriving in our state have fled violence and persecution to seek a better life in America," he said. "Many stood shoulder to shoulder with American forces, risking their own safety to help our troops and build a better Afghanistan. It’s our moral duty to help these families rebuild their lives in Connecticut."
He continued: "My team stands ready to help those that have just arrived and continues to assist those still trying to leave Afghanistan. To all those arriving to Connecticut: welcome home.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said earlier this week that immigrant advocacy groups are working to find permanent homes for them in the state.
He added that he is pushing Congress to approve aid for housing, jobs and other services for the refugees. Resettlement agencies, including two in Connecticut, will be in charge of finding permanent homes for refugees.
Even though these families will be given a lot of resources, there is still a lot more to be done and offered.
Schnitzer asked for items like donations, volunteers to help with tutoring and even landlords who can offer affordable housing.
As to where these families will be staying, that is still being worked on and hotels may be a possibility.
"We’re setting up apartments, we’re looking for employment, helping kids get into schools and we need your help doing all of that," Schnitzer said.
CIRI and IRIS are looking for volunteers to help these families settle into their new homes.
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