The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

Celebrating 25 Years of Welcoming Refugees


The Mission of IRIS - Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services is to help refugees and other displaced people establish new lives, regain hope, and contribute to the vitality of Connecticut’s communities. IRIS began welcoming refugees to the New Haven area in 1982. Today, with a staff of ten full time employees, several interns, and many volunteers, IRIS resettles and provides basic services, including housing, food and clothing, employment, and legal assistance to more than 300 refugees, asylees and
immigrants of all ages each year. With assistance focused on the initial months following a refugee’s arrival, IRIS’s services can last up to five years. IRIS has recently extended services to immigrants, particularly those seeking asylum.

Working Toward Early Self-Sufficiency

The IRIS program is based on the goal of early self-sufficiency. Most refugee families gain employment and achieve financial independence within six months of arrival, without receiving public cash assistance. Employment is a key step in the process of regaining a sense of self-worth, belonging, and dignity.

Background and principles

Refugees are persons who are forced to flee their home countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Refugees usually escape to neighboring countries, where they wait to return home, or apply for resettlement in another country like the United States. They wait for many years. Of the approximately 14 million refugees worldwide, about 50,000 are invited to start new lives in the United States. Of these, approximately 500 resettle in Connecticut annually. In recent years IRIS has welcomed refugees from Bosnia, Sudan, Iran, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola. Right now, many families are coming from Iraq.

IRIS Services

IRIS serves its refugee clients with orientation and support services from the moment of arrival to the point of self-sufficiency. These services include:

  • Basic Needs: housing, food, clothing, translation, and assistance in accessing medical care, social
    services, and education.
  • Employment: pre-employment training, securing employment, support services for refugees and
    employers, and financial counseling.
  • Immigration counseling and legal services: assistance with family reunification, green card and
    naturalization applications (a small fee may apply), and court representation for asylum seekers.
  • Co-Sponsorship: IRIS reaches out to community-based groups throughout the state to encourage their
    participation in hosting or co-sponsoring refugee families. Groups can co-sponsor refugees in two ways:
    • Full co-sponsorship: A group welcomes a family into its community and provides all the core case
      management services, including housing.
    • Partnership sponsorship: A group provides material support, donations, hospitality, or mentoring
      for a family resettled by IRIS in the New Haven area. IRIS handles housing and employment.

IRIS is funded by the US State Department, Office of Refugee Resettlement – US Dept. Of Health and Human Services, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Church World Service, Connecticut Departments of Social Services and Education, Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, The United Way, Public Allies / Americorps, Casey Family Services Foundation, the Carolyn Foundation, the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, Bissell Foundation, churches, synagogues and other organizations around the state, and individual contributions.