IRIS Ready to Help Refugees from Afghanistan as Taliban Moves In

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At a news conference on Friday, New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) announced they’re ready to help close to 500 refugees from Afghanistan get resettled here in Connecticut.

“We’ve already gotten the word out to volunteers and community groups around the state mosques, churches, synagogues, rotary clubs ‘hey we need your help,’" said Chris George, executive director of IRIS.

He says they’re preparing as advocates say a humanitarian crisis is brewing. The U.S. had a presence there for the last 20 years while Afghanistan tried to create a government.

“It’s chaos there. Afghans, especially those who served with U.S. troops, who supported the government, they are facing now dire consequences,” said Hewad Hemat, an interpreter who helped in Afghanistan.

“Because in Afghanistan, security was very dangerous, especially for me and my family,” said Kamal Sadat, who tells NBC Connecticut he worked with youth and in media outreach in support of U.S. troops and the government of Afghanistan.

Then the Taliban began threatening him and his family because they told him he was worse than the U.S. military.

“Because you changed people’s minds,” recalled Sadat of what he was told through the threats.  

He says he moved thirteen times in just a few years across Afghanistan to escape. Now here in the U.S., he’s watching as the Taliban sweeps through his home country.

He says he’s worried about his extended family still there and others who helped the government rebuild.

“I think it’s the time for the united states to stand side by side with them in this hard situation,” said Hemat. “Otherwise I’m thinking human crisis will happen there.”

There’s now a push to help get those allies out as the Taliban takes control.

“It is a humanitarian nightmare that we helped to create,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

George says they’re working strategically with local groups to help.

“Some of them -- 25 to 30 percent of them -- might be placed with community groups all over the state,” George said.

But how many arrive and when they arrive largely depends on how soon the government can move people out, especially in areas outside of Kabul, where U.S. military troops are stationed. 

“The last thing I want to happen is for people to be stuck in a dangerous area because we can’t welcome them in this country,” said George. “No, that won’t happen.”

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