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Minutes of Y's Men Meeting of April 6, 2017

Claudia Connor

Ms. Connor is the President of the International Institute of Connecticut, Inc. (“II Conn”) that has a goal of acculturating refugees and immigrants.  It is a 99 year old organization that was originally founded by the YWCA.

During the course of its 99 year history II Conn helps has helped people from many countries.  Right after World War II many people came from the European countries like Hungary.  Today, the majority of the people II Conn deals with come from Africa and Latin America.

The programs administered by II Con are the following:

·        Refugee resettlement

·        Economic empowerment – loans

·        Immigration legal services and citizenship

·        Survivor services – assisting those who have been tortured

·        Project Rescue – anti-human trafficking

·        Language services – providing translations

During this last year II Conn assisted around 4,000 individuals using a staff of forty with the aid of 175 volunteers and 100 attorneys who work on a pro-bono basis.

But this work is done with a backdrop of sixty-five million displaced people due to conflict across the globe.  And this is an increase of five million from the prior year.  Last year there were twenty-five million five hundred thousand refugees.  Of those, only 200,000 were able to return to their homeland. Only one-half percent of the sixty-five million were resettled.  The rest reside in camps, or other makeshift accommodations.

In order to obtain resettlement a candidate must go through the following steps:

v Register with the UN as a refugee

v Get referred for resettlement

v Obtain security clearance from multiple agencies

v Undergo a personal interview

v Pass a medical screening

v Undergo a further security check

v Travel to the U.S.

v Arrive here and go through an orientation process that entails the following:

Ø Get assigned an apartment and undergo a cultural orientation

Ø Obtain a social security number, DSS, enroll minors in school

Ø Obtain transportation

Ø Become self-sufficient within ninety-one days

Relocated refugees are also required to repay the money it cost to transport them to the U.S.

The Y’s Men were encouraged to help with these efforts in one or more of the following ways:

§  Volunteer

§  Mentor

§  Sign up for the email newsletter

§  Attend the April 25 meeting sponsored by the Democratic Women of Westport & the Westport Town Committee

§  Attend the April 27 talk on Refugees and America at the Ferguson Library in Stamford

§  Contribute to II Conn

Q&A

Q.  What can we do internationally to deal with those displaced because of natural causes like climate change?

A.  We would like the definition of refugees to be expanded to cover those displayed by natural causes.  We also urge more humanitarian aid.

Q.  Is it common to face cultural changes that may replace what these people are used to?

A.  Yes.  For instance all family members who are old enough may be required to work to support the family, which may be very different then what people are used to and may even bring about a change in the head of the family.

Q.  Who gets into the program?

A.  First you have to want to get into it.  Then it is a waiting game.

Q.  Which countries are the most active in taking refugees?

A.  The U.S., Canada and Australia are among the most active.

Q.  How do you distinguish between those seeking asylum and refugees?

A.  Refugees are designated as such before they come into the country.  Those seeking asylum request it when they are here.

Q.  What happens to people who come here and get in trouble with the law?

A.  They are subject to the criminal justice system.

Q. Is there a problem with people bringing their cultural customs here that are unacceptable?

A.  The incidence of this, while it occurs, is not greater than the incidence of crime by our own citizens.