SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 15, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State confirmed that Utah can expect to resettle 765 Afghan arrivals in the coming months, Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement updating his previous report.
“We’re working closely with Utah’s Refugee Services Office, resettlement agencies, humanitarian groups, private sector leaders, Afghans in Utah and engaged citizens to put processes in place to support new arrivals,” Cox said in his prepared statement. “We are grateful to offer a safe landing place to 765 Afghans and recognize the new perspectives and compassion they will bring to our state.”
That number could change in the future and is in addition to the state’s plan to resettle other refugees over the coming year, the statement said.
“There is still work to be done to prepare and we are awaiting additional information from the State Department. We have a fantastic track record of refugee resettlement with our resettlement agencies: Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee. We know they will use their expertise to make this a smooth transition, and we will have resources ready to fill in gaps and offer support in that process.”
“The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Community Services (CCS) are the state’s two resettlement agencies and manage the resettlement of all refugees who come to the state,” the news release said. Donations and volunteers are welcome for both agencies.
Most of the refugees are at military bases in the U.S. They have received security screenings, medical evaluations and vaccinations. It is expected that they will begin to travel to other states, including Utah, after Oct. 1, and that the resettlement agencies will receive one week’s notice before arrivals. Arrivals are expected to be spread out over a number of months.
The governor’s Refugee Advisory Board has convened three task groups — housing, basic needs and community — to prepare for the arrival of Afghan refugees, his sttement says. These task groups are bringing together businesses, landlords, government agencies, advocacy groups, service providers and the public to meet the needs of new arrivals.
This group of refugees will include a large number of humanitarian parolees who were evacuated because of their vulnerabilities but who have not yet received refugee or asylee status, the release said. Humanitarian parolees can apply for asylum, which currently takes about two years, though there are discussions to speed up the process. They will be eligible to work in Utah and receive employment assistance from the Department of Workforce Services, however, they are not currently eligible for other benefits. The State Department is offering this population a small amount of Reception and Placement (R&P) monetary support.
In order to provide benefits to humanitarian parolees, U.S. Congress will be considering a continuing resolution that would include $6.4 billion to assist with resettlement of refugees, including humanitarian parolees. The deadline for passage is Oct. 1.
The two resettlement agencies, IRC and CCS, provide initial resettlement services to newly arrived refugees, including picking them up at the airport, providing housing, furniture and food, initial orientation and additional services. Their support is ongoing for the first three months and in some cases up to six months. They will also be the agencies receiving Afghan arrivals.
The Refugee Services Office (RSO) through the state of Utah provides funding for case management support for up to two years, which is provided by IRC and CCS. Refugees can access services funded through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR in the Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). RSO manages the distribution of funding, which pays for English language learning, support to schools, youth mentoring and medical support. RSO also offers refugees access to training and education, employment and career assistance, support for refugee community organizations, a gathering place at the Utah Refugee Center and licensed clinical social workers for ongoing mental health assistance. The Utah Refugee Center also provides walk-in support for any services refugees might need.