• About Us

    Welcome! The Yale Refugee Project is an organization of undergraduate students passionately devoted to aiding refugees, immigrants, and other forced migrants. At its core, that means supporting resettled populations living in Greater New Haven. The city alone typically receives over 200 new refugees for resettlement each year, but in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, resettled over 500 refugees—more than New York or Los Angeles.

    The challenges of resettlement are numerous, and vary from family to family. For years, YRP volunteers have been responding to issues of social isolation and have helped provide new refugees with critical support—whether that be as simple as tutoring English or as extraordinary as founding a food start-up to bolster one family's income. In partnership with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), the local resettlement agency, we are constantly searching for ways to better serve our local refugee population.
    In addition to working with refugees, in recent years YRP has expanded its efforts to include immigrants and other migrant groups. Although these populations may not legally classify as refugees, we believe that the terms “refugee,” “immigrant,” and “asylum seeker” lack clear delineation and should not be seen as monoliths. Through our efforts as an organization, we hope to redefine Yale’s relationship with migrancy and provide an example for how other undergraduates might engage with their own migrant communities.


  • What We Do

    A brief overview of our on-going projects.

    Youth Groups

    Forging long-term friendships between Yale students and New Haven refugees through weekly support groups, frequent outings, sports games, dance classes, and more.

    For more information, contact Michelle Phan at michelle.phan@yale.edu.


    Bringing delicious treats made by refugees in our New Haven community to you — in Yale butteries and beyond.

    For more information, visit havenlytreats.com.

    Employment Team

    Helping refugees find stable employment and long-term income.

    For more information, contact Miho Carey at miho.carey@yale.edu.

    Immigration Group

    Working to protect marginalized communities in spite of the current administration.

    For more information, contact Laura Plata at laura.plata@yale.edu.

    Events Team

    Keeping campus conversations critical, informed, and ongoing.

    For more information, contact Morgan Hanna Ghattas at morgan.hannaghattas@yale.edu.

  • Who We Are

    Executive Board, 2018-2019

    Ryan Gittler


    Ryan is a junior from Brick, New Jersey, studying Political Science and English. He is particularly interested in conceptions of migration and how they are sustained by neoliberal ideology. Within YRP, Ryan is a legal director of Havenly and works closely with the employment team. In the year ahead, he looks forward to expanding projects that support immigrants in New Haven. Around campus, Ryan can be found drinking boba, writing for Yale Daily News Weekend, or singing with his a cappella group, the Yale SOBs. You can reach him at ryan.gittler@yale.edu.

    Marwan Safar Jalani


    Marwan is a junior majoring in global affairs and comparative literature. He is an undergraduate fellow in the Yale Multidisciplinary Program on Human Rights. Marwan was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and he received asylum in the United States in 2017. Outside the Yale Refugee Project, Marwan was involved in the Yale Arab Students Association, the Yale Arab Conference and the Yale Review on International Studies. He was an undergraduate teaching fellow in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations as well as a curriculum development coordinator for RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Student Education). You can reach him at marwan.safarjalani@yale.edu.

    Michelle Phan


    Michelle is a junior Applied Math major from Anaheim, California. She hopes to create a larger space for women refugees in New Haven. Her favorite part of YRP is getting to know the refugee community in New Haven and forming new relationships with the city’s refugees. Apart from YRP, Michelle writes for the Yale Scientific Magazine and works in a computational biology lab on campus. You can reach her at michelle.phan@yale.edu.

    Mauro Aceves-Acosta


    Mauro is from Branford, Connecticut and is a sophomore at Yale University considering a major in Chemistry. Outside of the Yale Refugee Project, he is part of Yale Model Congress, an organization that creates a congressional simulation for high school students every year. He is also involved with residential college Intramural sports and is one of the Pauli Murray IM secretaries. In his free time, Mauro likes to cook, play piano and ride mountain bikes. You can reach him at mauro.aceves-acosta@yale.edu.

    Shamsa Derrick

    Communications Director

    Shamsa is a junior Political Science and ER&M double major from New York City. She has studied Portuguese and Spanish and is interested in refugee and immigration policy as well as issues surrounding border conflict. Outside of YRP she is involved with the Yale Black Women's Coalition, Fair Haven Tutoring, Danceworks, and works as a College Aide. You can reach her at shamsa.derrick@yale.edu.

    Miho Carey

    Employment Team Director

    Miho is sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia interested in majoring in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and Education Studies. She started working with YRP in her first week at Yale after speaking to her Arabic TA about how to get involved in the organization. She is in charge of the new Job Hunts Program and works with the Women's Youth Group, and loves all of the amazing, funny, and inspiring women she has met with the help from the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven. Outside of YRP, she hosts a weekly radio show as her alter ego DJ Hapa Homie, who can't wait for you to tune in! You can always reach her at miho.carey@yale.edu!

    Yasamin Sharifi

    Women's Programming Co-Director

    Yasamin is a senior in the Human Rights Program majoring in Environmental Studies. Yasamin translates for Afghan refugees in New Haven, and this past summer worked as a research assistant for the Yale Child Study Center on food security among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Yasamin also is a member of the Equestrian Club and tutors Farsi! You can reach her at yasamin.sharifi@yale.edu.

    Laura Plata

    Immigration Group Director

    Laura is a senior majoring in Ethics, Politics, and Economics with a particular focus on immigration and refugee studies. You can reach her at laura.plata@yale.edu.

    Lizzie Dolan

    Women's Programming Co-Director

    Lizzie is undecided in major but strongly leaning towards Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, and she has loved being a part of Yale Refugee Project since winter of last semester! This year, she will be working even more closely with IRIS as an Urban Fellow, which she is extremely excited about. Lizzie loves the community and love all of the strong women she have met. Outside of YRP, Lizzie is on the WORD slam poetry team, is obsessed with her college (yay TD), and enjoys being a part of the Camp Kesem community as well. You can reach her at elizabeth.dolan@yale.edu.

    Caterina Passoni

    Havenly Co-Founder

    Caterina is from Trieste, a small city in the North Eastern part of Italy. She majored in Ethics, Politics and Economics and Modern Middle Eastern Studies, with a particular focus on refugee policy, inter-religious issues and human rights, and graduated in May. She is particularly passionate about advocating for Arab and Middle Eastern refugees in Europe and the United States. In her free time, she does ballet and ballroom dancing. You can reach her at caterina.passoni@yale.edu.

    Liam Arnade-Colwill

    Men's Programming Director

    Bio coming soon!

    Morgan Hanna Ghattas

    Events Team Director

    Morgan is a sophomore from Tampa, Florida and is prospectively studying Political Science with a focus on the Middle East. After talking to her TA about ways to be involved in human rights advocacy on campus, she was introduced to YRP and is excited to work on new campus initiatives. Outside of YRP, Morgan has loved being a part of the Yale Students for Christ community and finding a Coptic Orthodox community as well, reaching out to prospective students as a Recruitment Coordinator at the Office of Admissions, and is working as a teaching assistant in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department. You can reach her at morgan.hannaghattas@yale.edu.

  • Resources

    A few sources that we recommend to help you learn more.

    IRIS is New Haven's largest refugee resettlement agency and YRP's closest partner. In 2016, they welcomed 475 refugees from a variety of countries, including Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Their needs are significant and IRIS is their primary resource as they begin to rebuild their lives after years of persecution and displacement. IRIS helps refugees on the road to self-sufficiency by providing lifesaving support during their transition to life in the United States.

    News about Refugees and Displaced People, including commentary and archival articles, published in The New York Times.

    A summary of deportation procedures, created by Harper Loonsk, YRP Co-President (2016-2017), and Lauren Cueto. This is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the lived experiences of deported individuals and the often arbitrary methods that Immigration and Customs Enforcement employs.

    The Refugee Project is a narrative, temporal map of refugee migrations since 1975. It uses UN data to visualize refugee volumes over time and added a layer of historical content to help explain the events that caused some of the largest refugee movements of the last four decades.

    This book by Peter Nyers tells us that we somehow think that those who lack a nation-state, a paramount construct of our globalized world view, are somehow lesser humans than we are. Thus we can shuffle these people around in ways that both suit our political purposes and also enhance our own self-image as humanitarians taking care of victims. This works until the victims, showing less than subservient gratitude, find their own voices and follow their own agendas. This concept is being challenged more and more, politicians as well as society are recognizing a different reality. Refugees won’t play the victim any longer.