”AMERICA’S NOBLEST TRADITION”
Welcoming Refugees to Our Shores
By Mr. Chris George (a Greek American) , the Executive Director of IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), a non -for-profit agency based in New Haven, Connecticut USA.
An article written by Mr. Spiros Vellios who attended the meeting in Orange Connecticut, held on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016.
The event was sponsored by:
- The Hellenic Bar Association of Connecticut, Inc., an association of Greek-American attorneys committed to the rule of law, social injustice, as well as advancing issues relevant to the Greek Diaspora: Mr. Gregory Stamos Esq. is the Founder and President of the Hellenic Bar Association.
- Order of AHEPA, New Haven Chapter #98
Dr. Evangelos Hadjimichael is the President of the Order of AHEPA , New Haven Chapter# 98 .
Mr. Gregory Stamos Esq. is the Past Supreme Counselor of the Order of AHEPA, and in Chapter #98 the Chairman of the Cultural events and Social Outreach Committee and the initiator of this event.
- Order of St Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of which Mr. Gregory Stamos is an Archon. While the Order of St Andrew’s primary mission is the advancement of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it is also concerned with religious freedom and human rights worldwide.
Dignitaries and Event Opening.
Dr. Evangelos Hadjimichael gave the welcome and introductory remarks. The Reverend Charles Simones opened the sessions with a welcoming prayer. Mr. Gregory Stamos Esq. then introduced Mr. Chris George.
Personal Introduction by Mr. Chris George
Mr. Chris George believes in Hospitality. Born in New Jersey State from Greek parents, he experienced from an early age the value of work by selling newspapers on Sundays. Whilst serving as a Peace Corps volunteer he was posted for 2 years in the Kingdom if Oman where he learnt to speak the Arabic language. Later he worked in Lebanon and in 1986 lived in the Gaza Strip with his family and worked for “Save the Children”.
Refugee Camps in the Middle East
Mr. George has visited refugee camps and explained the high level of Hospitality and Generosity demonstrated by refugees who have so little to offer but nevertheless displayed these fine human attributes. Refugees who flee persecution or fear being persecuted, leave their homelands. Refugees worldwide are estimated by Mr. George to be 19 million including 4 million Syrians. There are about 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1 million in Lebanon and 1 million in Jordan. As a refugee in a foreign country UN Status can be awarded if ample proof is provided by the individuals to Government officials on arrival .
Refugee Re-settlement in the USA
There are 3 broad initial steps, refugee resettlement, interview and invitation to the US if approved. In the past 3 years 70 000 refugees from across the world re-settled in the USA. The process is rigorous. Once the refugees are invited there are 9 National Groups in the USA who are initially provided with the details of the refugees who will arrive in the USA.
The 9 Groups feed some 350 smaller refugee non-profit organizations scattered throughout the USA to help them on arrival. The USA has for some-time had the largest refugee resettlement program welcoming more refugees than the rest of the countries combined.
Recent Refugee Migration
Partly as a result of information flowing through cell phones about 1 million Syrian refugees have moved into Europe in 2015. The number of refugees worldwide currently is the highest since WWII. Back in 1980, 200 000 refugees from South East Asia were re-settled in the USA.
Status of Refugees currently in the USA
Major screening takes place and only 2,700 Syrian refugees have been processed currently. Refugees are requested to sign promissory notes for the air flight costs. Nothing is free as was the case of our ancestors arriving in the USA, says Mr. George. The designers of the refugee program believe that struggle builds character. The local non-profits are given 2 weeks notification of pending arrival of refugees where-upon with the aid of volunteers, used furniture is provided in rental apartments which are sourced. The kitchen is stocked with food and within 2 hours of arrival in their apartment a volunteer will have a culturally appropriate hot meal ready for the family.
IRIS New Haven
Mr. George allocates a Case Manager and with the aid of an Interpreter (normally volunteers) will attend to the various needs of the refugees including any pressing health care issues.
Although a budget is provided, the family members need to immediately seek employment to supplement the budget with own earnings. The first hurdle is to earn sufficient to pay the apartment rent and so on. At Gateway College, English is taught and volunteer teachers to teach English in New Haven is an ongoing need. IRIS process 240 refugees per year originating from various countries in the world. These refugees are legal residents having initially been processed before arrival in the USA. IRIS was recently in the forefront in processing the one refugee family of 3 who although allocated to the state of Illinois were not welcomed there and were re-directed to and welcomed by the Connecticut State. Governor Malloy contacted Mr. George and met the family of 3 in New Haven. IRIS were contacted overnight by many organizations worldwide following this good deed which was highly publicized in the American National press namely in the New York Times, MSNBC and the New Yorker.
American Tradition of Hospitality
The tradition of hospitality over many past years have and will always welcome immigrants to the US from diverse cultures whatever their origin. Up to 60 Groups have volunteered to help refugees in Connecticut. IRIS plans in 2016 to process an additional 260 refugees per year to be settled all over the Connecticut State.
IRIS Future Requirements
Donations in order for IRIS to hire more staff to process the plus 260 individuals in 2016. Donations of second hand furniture and household goods. Volunteer tutors for English. Volunteers to assist refugees in Resume writing and Job Interview simulations. Businesses to hire refugees which make good employees – they should be given a chance.
Contacts at IRIS if you wish to volunteer to help refugees in New Haven CT USA.
E-mail the Volunteer Coordinator at : [email protected] OR call (203) 562 2095.
For other Towns in Connecticut
Form a Group : If you wish to form a new community based group (faith based congregations, associations, clubs etc.) the group can support or host refugees in their own neighborhoods through IRIS’s Co-sponsorship Program. To learn more phone IRIS at (203) 562 2095.
To Contribute or for more information
Donations at the Event and following the Event
Donations to IRIS were made after the Event on the same evening from the Order of AHEPA New Haven Chapter #98 and the Hellenic Bar Association of Connecticut.
The following evening the membership of St Barbara, Greek Orthodox Church Ladies Philoptocos Society made a donation to IRIS.