Afghan refugees seeking asylum are making their way to Alaska and will be touching down in the state now through March as they flee from a country once again under majority Taliban rule and in the wake of the American military exodus from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
The U.S. troop withdrawal was enacted by President Joe Biden’s administration, and left some vulnerable Afghans — including women, children and U.S. allies — in jeopardy as the Taliban have taken over most major cities in the country.
The Associated Press reported Monday that between 50 to 100 Afghans refugees are set to relocate to Alaska through the Catholic Social Services Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services’ resettlement program in Anchorage.
Tricia Teasley, the chief communication and development officer at the CSS Anchorage branch, said that the first step is giving the new arrivals “time to breathe.”
“They’re coming from a pretty horrific situation,” she said.
Since CSS in Anchorage is the only refugee resettlement program in the state, the Afghan asylum-seekers will land there, Teasley said. But once they get oriented, they may move to other places across Alaska.
Through supervision from the Department of Homeland Security, refugees will spend some time in the Lower 48 before arriving in Alaska, Teasley said. They are vetted, usually at military bases, and undergo health screenings before they head to Anchorage. Teasley said this can sometimes take awhile.
“The process can take weeks and weeks,” she said Tuesday.
The Refugee Assistance program provides services to asylum-seekers from foreign countries, and aims to orient newcomers to the area. Teasley said some of the services include finding housing, filing immigration documentation and applying for jobs.
According to the CSS website, 88% of refugees find employment within 90 days of relocation.
Teasley said many people in Anchorage have already volunteered to help make the transition easier for the incoming refugees.
“We’ve had an outpouring from the community,” she said. “Especially people who served in Afghanistan.”
Typically the CSS refugee program offers services for evacuees for three months, although depending on the individual or family, sometimes they work in tandem for years.
Helping to orientate the newcomers by helping on move-in day or by purchasing cook-frozen meals isn’t the only way to get involved in the refugee assistance process, Teasley said.
People can also send welcome letters or purchase items from the organization’s Amazon wish list if they want to give from afar.
For more information, visit the Afghan Relief webpage at cssalaska.org.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.