‘Now I Feel Comfortable': Syrian Refugee Shares Journey of Resettling in New Haven

It has been 8 months since 31-year-old Ziyad Mohamad Alahmad arrived in Connecticut, but the journey of escaping his war-torn homeland of Syria began more than two and half years before that.

"Took me two days actually to cross the border and go to Turkey," Alahmad said, with his case worker interpreting his Arabic.

In Turkey, he applied to be a refugee and his wife gave birth to their second son. His family finally resettled in New Haven last December, with the help of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS).

"IRIS helped us for paying our rents and helped us to adjust for my kids doctor appointment and health and medical stuff," Alahmad said, adding he is especially thankful for the care his three-year-old son with disabilities is receiving. "The first two months it was very hard for me to adjust to life over here, but now I feel comfortable."

New Haven has accepted the 12th most Syrian refugees in the country, IRIS Executive Director Chris George said. His organization has welcomed 204 Syrian refugees since last July.

Citing security concerns, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says Syrian refugees should not be allowed in the United States.

"It’s not American to say those things," George said. "This is the finest foreign policy program we have welcoming persecuted people from all over the world."

Refugees must be finger printed, interviewed numerous times and have their documents analyzed before the Department of Homeland Security allows them to enter the country, George explained.

"Any refugee who has arrived here in Connecticut has gone through the most rigorous vetting process in the world," he said.

For Alahmad, New Haven has become his safe haven.

"I felt safe for myself and for my kids," he said. "There is no risk for living over here."

While they are processed in New Haven, George said half of the Syrian refugees are now living in communities across the state. He credits the support from different community groups for helping to accommodate the increase in refugees arriving this summer.

IRIS expects nearly another 300 Syrians to arrive in Connecticut before the end of the year.

The Obama administration has set the goal of accepting 10,000 Syrians by the end of September.

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