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Organizations prepare to receive refugees from Afghanistan

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The U.S. has officially left Afghanistan, but many Afghans are still in need of help.

Organizations and communities here are scrambling to prepare for an unknown number of people who may be resettled here.

Decades of similar work with refugees has helped the Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest prepare for people flooding in from Afghanistan.

“We have been doing this work since 1975, so this is something we do all the time,” said Connie Phillips, the president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

They are preparing to be able to help resettle hundreds of Afghans in Arizona. They think their services and community can support about 100 people in Tucson. The organization believes many who would be housed have already been working toward their Special Immigration Visas, but many will need to go the humanitarian route.

“They already had a pipeline that they were going down, this is simply making that go faster this has created the urgency for those folks,” said Phillips. “We’re still waiting on information, as far as how soon we’ll see some of those folks come. We still don’t really know yet, but we’re in the process of preparing. So, we’ll be ready when they come into our community.”

Refugees are often resettled in areas where they may already have ties, like friends and family. Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest said that tends to be Virginia or Texas for Afghans.

In 2019, according to the state department of economic security, Afghanistan was not even on the top list of countries people were resettling from in Pima County. Southern Arizona may not receive as many refugees as others, but a tight housing market may cause a need for short-term temporary housing.

“They are coming quickly. Normally, we get a couple weeks’ notice. We’ve been advised we may not be getting as much notice. So, we may have to use temporary hotel rooms,” said Phillips.

The University of Arizona is also seeking to help anyone who may be stuck in Afghanistan.

“Our government and community relations team based out of here and Washington DC are directly working with the ambassadors and our federal legislatures to identify anybody that has an affiliation with the university and provide those names to those people,” said Holly Jensen, with UArizona communications.

Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest is asking people to contact them with leads on rental properties they may be able to use. They are also looking for volunteers to help with coordinating efforts as well.

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