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Afghan refugee arrivals pick up

Afghan Refugees arrival at Dulles International Airport after the last planes left Afghanistan after U.S. withdrawal Aug. 31 in Dulles, Virginia. [credit: AP file photo/mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX]

ASHLAND — The pace of Afghan refugees arriving in Oregon began to rise in mid-October, according to the latest update from the Afghan Arrivals Workgroup. Welcoming preparations continue as resettlement begins in the wake of a tumultuous evacuation process.

“Current combined commitments from all national resettlement agencies to resettle Afghan parolees are not enough, meaning Afghans will either be forced to remain at U.S. military bases or will be sent to communities with inadequate support,” Rep. Khanh Pham and Sen. Kayse Jama said in the update. “Resettlement affiliates are being encouraged to ramp up their capacity to resettle more families.”

The Afghan Arrivals Workgroup — a collaborative effort launched Sept. 14 among lawmakers, state and local agencies, nonprofits and community leaders — established subgroups to coordinate key aspects of Afghan refugee relocation in Oregon. Officials expect the state’s metro centers to take in most refugees following the collapse of Afghanistan into Taliban control.

Colder weather has begun to affect the sustainability of lodging on certain U.S. military bases, prompting federal officials to consider relocating more than 40,000 people to emergency housing.

According to Catholic Charities of Oregon, five families (a total of 15 people) will arrive soon, to be initially housed and fed by the Oregon Department of Human Services Emergency Management Unit. Catholic Charities recently announced the addition of a case manager to its refugee services team to focus on Afghan family resettlement.

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization was approved as a state resettlement agency, with the power to work directly with the federal government to resettle refugees. IRCO plans to increase staff by two to three people for program support and training as they work to settle 150 Afghan arrivals through the end of the year, according to the workgroup update.

The Afghan Support Network, a new organization filing for nonprofit status, will focus on immigration support, cultural navigation, service connection and advocacy with and on behalf of Portland area-based Afghan communities.

All Afghan Arrivals Workgroup subcommittees have convened for at least one meeting. Subcommittees include housing, legal services, employment and workforce development, childcare, education, health care and translation services.