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New Haven refugee resettlement agency expects to assist hundreds of Afghanis soon

The message at New Haven City Hall Friday to the Biden administration was the need for speed in the evacuation of thousands of Afghanis.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A New Haven refugee resettlement organization expects to be plenty busy assisting Afghanis fleeing their country as the Taliban gains control of more than two-thirds of the country.

The message at New Haven City Hall Friday to the Biden administration was the need for speed in the evacuation of thousands of Afghanis, who have assisted U.S. service members over the past two decades in Afghanistan.

"I have to tell you that even though I did not want to leave Afghanistan the U.S. has to move faster to get to others like me to safety," said Hewad Hemat, a long-time Afghan interpreter.

He migrated to the United States seven years ago with his family and settled in Connecticut. Now he watches in horror as family and friends remain fearful for their lives as the Taliban gains control of the country.

"The Taliban doesn’t play by the rules," Hemat said. "They kill civilians, they kill government Afghans, they kill pro-U.S. mission people as well."

An estimated 18,000 Afghans, who have assisted American troops, remain in harm's way. One, who we will identify only as Muhammad, arrived in Connecticut two weeks ago.

"My wife’s father, he was killed with 30 people," Muhammad said.

Connecticut is a place where many refugees will be sent in the coming months.

"We are one of about 200 refugee resettlement agencies and we are one of the strongest in the country," said Chris George, Executive Director of New Haven-based Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, known as IRIS. "We are strong because we have amazing community support."

IRIS has resettled roughly 500 Afghani refugees in recent years in greater New Haven. Now they will need to ramp up their efforts.

"Our plan is to resettle between 400 and 500 over the next 12 months," George said.

The refugee, whose father-in-law was killed, said he received two written warnings from the Taliban stating he would be killed if he did not stop assisting the U.S. troops. 

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