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Iraqi Refugees in Connecticut

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On the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, refugees continue to flee their country for the U.S.  More than 650 Iraqis have resettled in Connecticut since 2007, 400 in the New Haven area.

Imad Al Mallack arrived in January. Speaking through an interpreter, he says he left Iraq with his wife and two young children because its so unsafe.

"Very bad security situation. Car bomb. They have a lot of bombing in Baghdad."

Al Mallack worked as a driver and security guard in the city of Erbil. Here in Connecticut, despite struggles to learn English and find a job, he says he’s happy.

"I just feel secure. It's so good for me. I’m so happy because I feel secure."

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services organization is helping Al Mallack’s family made the transition to life in New Haven. 

Iraqi refugees come from a variety of backgrounds. The majority are well-educated, says Deputy Director Kelly Hebrank.

"They were working in the Green Zone, they were assisting U.S. troops. They put their lives at risk and that’s what made them refugees in most cases."

She says engineers and teachers often end up working in lower level jobs in the U.S.

"When they realize how difficult it is to learn a new language and a new culture and take a job that’s many steps below what they might have had back in Iraq, they’re doing it for their kids future."

IRIS is one of three resettlement agencies in Connecticut working with Iraqi refugees.  

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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