Massachusetts hopes to resettle 2,000 displaced Afghans

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BOSTON ( Associated Press) – Massachusetts expects to receive twice as many Afghan refugees as it estimated after 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 about 2,000 evacuees are expected in the state by the end of next month. This is up from the nearly 1,100 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 evacuations.

A spokesperson for the state Office for Refugees and Immigrants did not respond to an email seeking comment, but Thielman said the state’s nonprofit resettlement agencies are prepared to handle the inflow.

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

From October to last week, the International Institute for New England has rehabilitated about 450 Afghan citizens in Massachusetts and New Hampshire — more than the organization rehabilitated in the past three fiscal years combined, Thielman said.

Of them, about 150 Afghans have settled in the Boston area, about 200 in Lowell and more than 80 in Manchester, New Hampshire, he said. The new arrivals have about 200 children.

Efforts got a boost last month when Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a supplemental budget into law, with an allocation of $12 million. To help resettle Afghan citizens, making Massachusetts one of the few states to provide local funds to support federally funded resettlement efforts.

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The International Institute of New England states that up to 75% of Massachusetts’ funds are expected to go directly to immigrating families, with the remaining 25% to refugee resettlement organizations. Funding can provide, on average, about $3,000 per refugee, or $12,000 in additional assistance for a family of four.

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

He said more than 150 Afghans from neighboring New Hampshire were expected to attend. Connecticut has about 600 settled and Maine has 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.

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California, in comparison, was estimated to take the most Afghan evacuations. In any state with more than 5,200, according to US State Department data in September. The agency did not respond to an email seeking updated figures on Monday.

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