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Community groups prepare for incoming Afghan refugees

While none have landed here yet, Delaware could see an influx of refugees from Afghanistan at any time.


Over 20,000 Afghan refugees could be arriving on U.S. soil in the next month, as the federal government expands visa programs for Afghans who supported the U.S. through the war.


A few thousand of those refugees have already arrived in the U.S., and have been placed across the country, the closest being in Philadelphia.


Faizal Chaudhury is the vice president of the Islamic Society of Delaware.


“The whole issue wasn’t really planned properly from a federal point of view,” Chaudhury said. “And I think that put all the institutions including faith communities at a disadvantage where all of sudden I think everyone is kind of expecting a lot more inquiries on this end than we otherwise might have planned for.”


Jewish Family Services of Delaware is the sole organization offering a refugee resettlement program in the First State, and seeks help from groups such as ISD when families arrive.


“We haven’t seen this sense of urgency in our time — our meaning within the past five years we have not seen, maybe ten, we have not seen the sense of urgency and we are doing everything to prepare for that,” said JFS’ Chief Strategy Officer, Rosi Crosby.


Crosby says her group hasn’t gotten notice of any families coming to the First State yet, but could see over ten families arrive in Wilmington on short notice.


Delaware usually doesn’t play a large role in resettling refugees, through the 2010’s till now, Delaware hosts a small handful of refugees per year. 


Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Texas, may host up to 10,000 refugees in a single year.


Crosby says that’s in part because of the way placement is decided. She says refugees are settled in cities based on their capacity, as well as the availability of services.


That’s why refugees only get placed in large cities like Philadelpia or Wilmington, and not in Kent or Sussex county, because those cities offer access to government services, more housing and that makes it easier for programs like JFS to help families through the process.


Crosby points out one of the biggest challenges is finding housing. These families also need help accessing healthcare, finding jobs and even learning to drive.


Crosby says they’re fortunate that many members of the community have reached out to offer support. She says even large corporations such as Airbnb have been offering up their support for families who may need temporary housing.


She says the best thing Delawareans can do to help is to offer their help and kindness to these families, many of whom are arriving to the country with nothing but the clothes on their back, and will need help integrating into the community.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.


This story has been updated to correct a name mispelling.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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