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Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham among 6 NC cities to be home for Afghan refugees

About 1,169 refugees should begin arriving over the next 30 days and continue for about six months.
Afghan refugees line up for food in a dining hall at Fort Bliss' Doña Ana Village, in New...
Afghan refugees line up for food in a dining hall at Fort Bliss' Doña Ana Village, in New Mexico, where they are being housed, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. The Biden administration provided the first public look inside the U.S. military base where Afghans airlifted out of Afghanistan are screened, amid questions about how the government is caring for the refugees and vetting them. (AP Photo/David Goldman)(David Goldman | AP)
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:40 AM EDT
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(The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham will be among six cities in North Carolina to accept refugees from Afghanistan in the coming months — a move that will more than double the number of Afghan refugees who have settled in the state over the past decade.

About 1,169 refugees should begin arriving over the next 30 days and continue for about six months, said Carla West, the senior director for economic security at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Over the past decade, North Carolina has accepted 1,089 Afghan refugees — about 70 have come in the past year. Those refugees leaving now are fleeing the country since the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban’s takeover.

West said numerous organizations have stepped up to assist the refugees as they arrive, including the two resettlement agencies in Charlotte: the local Catholic diocese and the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency.

Across the state, West said the groups are “ready to welcome and support all of these new North Carolinians.”

REFUGEE SETTLEMENT IN NC

West said it was not clear yet exactly how many of the refugees will be coming to Charlotte. Raleigh, Durham, Asheville, Greensboro and New Bern will also be host cities.

The state has accepted about 20,000 refugees from 88 countries over the past decade. About 23% have come from Burma, 16% from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 9% from Bhutan, 8% from Cuba and 8% from Iraq.

Although West said there has been “really positive support” for the new Afghans, politicians in the state have not always been eager to accept people fleeing war and persecution.

In 2015, then-Gov. Pat McCrory, who is now running for U.S. Senate, was one of about two dozen governors who asked the federal government to halt the settlement of Syrians to their states.

Saying at the time that his “primary duty as governor is to keep the citizens of North Carolina safe,” McCrory said he wanted to halt the flow of Syrian refugees until he was satisfied with the vetting process.

Although the request was condemned by human rights advocates, other North Carolina politicians, including U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, also called for halting the refugee program for Syrians.

The Trump administration dramatically lowered the number of refugees that the nation would accept per year. At the beginning of the Reagan administration, the ceiling was at more than 200,000. By October 2020, the number had been slashed to just 15,000.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced it intends to increase the refugee cap from 62,500 in fiscal year 2021 to 125,000 in fiscal year 2022.

The Biden administration has asked Congress for funding to help settle 65,000 Afghans in the United States by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022, according to the Associated Press.

California and Texas will take the highest number of Afghans, at 5,255 and 4481, respectively.

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