Alaska’s plan to resettle Afghan refugees over the next six months

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 4:10 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As the United States works to help resettle Afghan refugees within its borders, Alaska has a plan in place to help those seeking a new home in the Last Frontier.

According to Lisa Aquino, CEO of Catholic Social Services, their organization will be working to help those brought to Alaska settle in.

“Catholic Social Services is a refugee resettlement agency for Alaska. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” Aquino explained. “The process of resettling a refugee is very well defined - only a certain number of refugees are allowed to settle in the United States annually. That number is determined by the President, and there’s a very strict process for how people enter the United States in that way. Refugees are people who no longer have a country, who cannot safely be in their country because of persecution, because of famine, because of war - and so they are literally pushed out, not able to safely be in their country.”

Currently, Catholic Social Services has allotted a specific number of refugees they will be able to resettle over the next few months.

“They’re on route to the United States,” Aquino said. “They all left Afghanistan and then went to military bases overseas, then military bases in the Lower 48, and our government is looking for places to safely resettle them. As our resettlement agency in Alaska, Catholic Social Services was asked if we could [help], and we offered to resettle up to 100 people.”

The resettlement effort is expected to go for the next several months, continuing into 2022 according to Aquino. “This is going to happen between September and March. We’re getting new information all the time on this. We’ve just heard of our first case that will be coming, but don’t yet know when - so the first household, the first family, we’re waiting to find out when. I think that what we know is that they’re coming and we want to try and be ready.”

The vast majority of resettlement will take place in Anchorage, with possible exceptions being made if a resettled individual or family has a strong connection to someone in the state of Alaska outside of Anchorage.

“Most of these individuals and families and households, we’ll be resettling them in Anchorage,” Aquino explained. “That’s where our offices are, and we want to make sure that they’re close to us and we can offer resources. That said, there sometimes are refugees that resettle in different parts of the state, and that’s usually when there’s a family connection in another part of the state.”

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