Massachusetts expected to resettle 2,000 Afghan evacuees

  • Haseena Niazi, a 24-year-old from Afghanistan, poses outside her home, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, north of Boston. Niazi received a letter from the federal government denying her fiancé's humanitarian parole application earlier in the month. Her fiance, who she asked not to be named over concerns about his safety, had received threats from Taliban members for working on women's health issues at a hospital north of Kabul. AP PHOTO/Charles Krupa

Associated Press
Published: 1/24/2022 7:49:22 PM
Modified: 1/24/2022 7:48:06 PM

BOSTON — Massachusetts is expecting to receive twice as many Afghan refugees as it had anticipated following the Taliban takeover of the country last summer, one of the state’s major refugee resettlement agencies said Monday.

Jeffrey Thielman, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England, said around 2,000 evacuees are expected to be settled in the state by the end of next month. That’s up from the roughly 1,100 evacuees state officials anticipated in September, as thousands of Afghans were expected to arrive in states across the country as part of the first wave of evacuees.

Spokespersons for the state Office for Refugees and Immigrants didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, but Thielman said the state’s nonprofit resettlement agencies are prepared to handle the influx.

“This has been the most intense period of resettlement that we’ve ever experienced,” he said. “We are all these people have when they first arrive, so the demand is very intense.”

From October to last week, the International Institute of New England has resettled nearly 450 Afghan nationals in Massachusetts and New Hampshire — more than the organization resettled in the last three fiscal years combined, Thielman said.

Of those, about 150 Afghans have been settled in the Boston area, nearly 200 in Lowell and more than 80 in Manchester, New Hampshire, he said. Nearly 200 of the new arrivals are children.

The efforts received a boost last month when Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a supplemental budget allocating $12 million to help resettle Afghan nationals, making Massachusetts one of the few states to provide local money to support federally funded resettlement efforts.

Up to 75% of Massachusetts’ funding is expected to go directly to arriving families, with the remaining 25% bolstering refugee resettlement organizations, the International Institute of New England has said. The funding could provide, on average, about $3,000 per refugee, or $12,000 in additional support for a family of four.

Thielman said Massachusetts’ Afghan refugee population expected to exceed other New England states.

Neighboring New Hampshire is expected to take in more than 150 Afghans, he said. Connecticut has settled nearly 600 and Maine has settled more than 100, officials in those states said Monday. Rhode Island officials expect to settle about 250 Afghans, while Vermont officials say the state will take in 250.

California, in comparison, was projected to take in the most Afghan evacuees of any state with more than 5,200, according to U.S. State Department data in September.

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