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Massachusetts to host 2,000 Afghans; double expected amount

January 24, 2022 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — 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 non-profit 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.”

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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.

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

As of last week, more than 1,500 Afghans had been resettled in the state, a U.S. Department of State spokesperson said Monday.

Neighboring New Hampshire, meanwhile, is expected to take in more than 150 Afghans, Vermont and Maine roughly 250 each, Connecticut more than 600 and Rhode Island more than 300, according to officials in those states.

California, in comparison, was projected to take in the most Afghan evacuees of any state with more than 5,200.

Most people in the U.S. — around 72% — want to see Afghans who worked with Americans offered resettlement in the United States as a duty and a necessary coda of the nearly 20-year war.