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Program Helps Refugees With Legal Rights

By JODIE MOZDZER | The Hartford Courant

October 31, 2008

A new program in Hartford aims to make sure local refugees understand their legal rights.

The Immigrants and Refugees New Arrivals Advocacy Project, run by the Center for Children's Advocacy, also hopes to make those who work with refugees aware of their rights.

About 500 refugees were relocated to Hartford this year, and another 500 are expected to move there next year.

They were relocated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, along with millions of others who were resettled in more than 40 countries, most because they faced war, persecution or death in their homelands.

But landing in the U.S. brings its own set of challenges to the refugees. Most don't speak English or understand their rights.

Since the new arrivals program launched in the spring, its director, Nhi Tran, has started reaching out to hospital workers, school administrators and landlords to teach them about the refugees' situations. Tran, an attorney with the children's advocacy center, also will act as an advocate for refugees who need legal help. Tran said she is working with the Refugee Assistance Center and Catholic Charities, two organizations that already provide case management for refugees resettling in the area.

Pontien Moket, a refugee from the Congo, sought help from Tran this year when he wanted to approach the school district about getting extra help for his oldest son. Moket said Tran accompanied him to meetings with school administrators "because I don't know the system here very well. I don't know the law here, don't know what is allowed."

Tran said she also helped a family from Liberia get its daughters re-enrolled in a local magnet school, after they were dropped from the roster because of a miscommunication over the summer.

Judy Gough, a coordinator for Catholic Charities' migration and refugee services, said they can work with refugees up to five years after they settle, and they have a strong relationship with the school district. Gough said there are 10 tutors in the school system who speak several of the refugees' languages.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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