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Columbus To Receive Around 350 Afghan Refugees

U.S. soldiers stand guard along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. On Monday, the U.S. military and officials focus was on Kabul's airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others.
Shekib Rahmani
/
AP
U.S. soldiers stand guard along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. On Monday, the U.S. military and officials focus was on Kabul's airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others.

Approximately 350 Afghans will be allowed to resettle in Columbus under a new program created by the U.S. Department of State in August.

The Afghan Placement and Assistance Program allows Afghans to petition for what’s called humanitarian parole. This expedites what is normally a year-long process for coming to the U.S. to a matter of days.

Two local resettlement agencies anticipate the arrival of nearly 350 Afghans. The Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) will resettle the bulk of those.

CRIS’s executive director, Angela Plummer, said resettlement agencies are not yet certain when they will start to arrive.

"These are people who really need help, and while it's certainly inconvenient not knowing [when they'll arrive], they're living through a crisis,” Plummer said. “So we'll have to deal with the inconvenience of it so that we can provide them a better start."

Plummer said she anticipates some of the Afghans coming will be Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, who often assisted the U.S. military as interpreters, but that further details are currently limited.

"It's really hard to know until they're here,” she said. “Based on prior SIV cases, we have seen larger families; so we do expect there will be a number of children coming."

The number of refugees CRIS assisted last year was low because of the pandemic. So, Plummer said they are working on returning to a faster pace for resettling people.

"Rebuilding our infrastructure, trying to put our systems back in place, trying to do so rapidly,” she said, while also asking for assistance from Columbus-area landlords. “And the biggest help would be letting us know of available housing options that landlords have. That's one of our main concerns."

Plummer added that before being resettled in Central Ohio, the Aghans’ backgrounds will be vetted and they will undergo extensive health screenings, including testing for COVID and getting vaccinated.

After their humanitarian parole applications have been approved, Afghans resettling in the U.S. will then have two years to apply for immigration status.

Corrected: September 11, 2021 at 11:51 AM EDT
A previous version of this story referred to CRIS as Columbus Refugee and Immigration Services. The correct name is Community Refugee and Immigration Services.