International Institute Of New England President Speaks On Plans To Help Ukrainian Refugees In Massachusetts – CBS Boston


BOSTON (CBS) – More than three million Ukrainians have fled their war-torn country since Russia fought its neighbor.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. will accept as many as 100,000 refugees, and some will come to Massachusetts.

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Anna Meiler of WBZ-TV spoke with Jeffrey Thielman, President and CEO of the International Institute of New England. Their organization is preparing to help people fleeing Ukraine move to Massachusetts.

Anna Meiler: What have you seen and heard so far and what services can you offer them?

Jeffrey Thielman: Our organization is starting to see people from Ukraine knocking on our doors, asking for our help. We had some people who left eastern Ukraine in the last few weeks. There are people who are often on tourist visas. Some people have green cards that have come to see us, and we have actually received some people who have been admitted on a conditional humanitarian basis. So our staff, when a Ukrainian family or an individual from Ukraine comes to our office, makes a reception, tries to figure out what services they need, and then we try to help them.

Much of what we see applies to people who are not yet entitled to public benefits based on their immigration status. So, if you currently have a visitor visa or even a conditional humanitarian freedom visa, you are not entitled to public benefits. But there are other ways we can help people, and we often connect them with immigration legal staff.

Meiler: The Massachusetts legislature recently approved $ 10 million to help refugees in Ukraine. How will this money be used to help them?

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Thielman: The money, as we understand it, is used to help refugees in Ukraine, as well as people from other countries. So we are very pleased with the efforts of the state legislation. Our understanding is that it had bipartisan support, including the support of the governor [Charlie] Baker, and that is why we are grateful to the state leadership for that. The state of Massachusetts is, by the way, one of the few states in the state that provides state funds to help refugees, and it is a credit to our leadership from the governor down through the entire legislature.

We will use these funds primarily to help people with housing. That is our current intention. So there are six resettlement agencies like ours in Massachusetts. We meet regularly. We share best practices and ideas, and are constantly working with the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants to discover how best to help newcomers to our state.

The current thinking in our group is that the cost of living in Massachusetts is very high, and we will use many of these resources to ensure that people have a safe place to live when they come here.

Meiler: Some people may not know that your organization is there to help. How can people find out more?

Thielman: People can visit us at www.iine.org.

We are certainly looking for donations, but I would also say that we are looking for volunteers, and even staff who speak Ukrainian, and maybe even Russian.

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So, as we prepare for the influx of refugees or evacuees from Ukraine, we will need a lot of staff members who speak their mother tongue. So, if you are interested in volunteering or working, visit our website and we will be happy to talk to you.



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