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As More Syrian Refugees Arrive, CT is Ready to Help

More than half the Syrian refugees heading to the United States are children. Credit: UK-DFID/Wikimedia Commons
More than half the Syrian refugees heading to the United States are children. Credit: UK-DFID/Wikimedia Commons
October 22, 2015

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The U.S will admit 10,000 refugees from Syria over the next year, more than five times the number admitted in the past 12 months, but those who help resettle displaced immigrants say more could be done.

About four million Syrians have fled their war-torn country and hundreds of thousands are settling in Europe. Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS, in New Haven, calls the target for U.S. admissions "an embarrassment."

"We have a national network of refugee resettlement agencies that could take as many as 200,000 refugees in one year," says George.

In 1980, the U.S. admitted 200,000 refugees from Southeast Asia.

So far, IRIS has resettled five Syrian families and another service in Hartford has resettled five more. George says the Syrians are just like refugees arriving from other countries.

"They're all eager to get jobs. They're learning English as quickly as they can," he says. "Like most refugees, Syrians came here for the future of their children so they want their children to do well in school."

IRIS claims a 70 percent success rate in helping those they serve to be self sufficient within five months of arrival.

Currently about 500 refugees a year from all nations resettle in the state, a number George believes could be doubled.

"We can do it because we have three, possibly four refugee resettlement agencies, and my phone is ringing off the hook with offers of support from community groups across the state," he says.

As the number of Syrian refugees increases, George says the message to the federal government from Connecticut is, "Please send us more."

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT