Sep 20, 2021 - News

Nearly 1,200 Afghan refugees headed to North Carolina

Afghan's Community Of Toulouse Gather About Afghanistan Situation

Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

North Carolina will receive 1,169 Afghan refugees as part of the wave of resettlements across the United States, following their home country’s fall to Taliban rule last month.

  • Charlotte is one of the cities where they’ll be moving, along with Asheville, Durham, Greensboro, New Bern and Raleigh.

Context: Over the past 10 years, North Carolina has welcomed 1,089 Afghan refugees in total — this will be more than that in just 4-6 months.

Why it matters: By the time they arrive, many of the refugees will have already faced harrowing journeys, as Axios’ Stef Kight notes.

  • North Carolina, which has a couple of the largest military bases in the country, has countless connections with Afghanistan, though.
  • And a network of organizations and individuals is lined up, ready to help them find housing, work and other necessities.

“It’s been really amazing to see all the North Carolinians who’ve stepped forward with kindness and compassion,” says Carla West, senior director for economic security for NCDHHS’ Division of Social Services.

What’s happening: The Biden administration notified governors and mayors on Wednesday of the number of Afghan evacuees their state is expected to receive in the coming weeks.

  • The nearly 1,200 refugees coming to N.C. adds up to the 9th most among the 46 states that will receive them. Only California (5,300) and Texas (4,500) will welcome dramatically more.

Data: Department of State; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

What’s happening here: We don’t know how many of the refugees will end up in Charlotte. But any who have personal ties to the city will get to choose to live here. Otherwise, they’ll be assigned to one of the six N.C. cities based on needs and capacity of local agencies, NCDHHS says.

Zoom out: West tells me the state is more than prepared to handle the surge. More than 20,000 refugees have resettled in North Carolina over the past decade, her office tells me. About 5% of those have been Afghans — including 69 since Oct. 1, 2020.

Of the others:

  • 23% were from Burma
  • 16% were from Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • 9% were from Bhutan
  • 8% from Cuba
  • 8% from Iraq

The bottom line: This effort is different, of course. The Afghan evacuees are moving here after the U.S. military spent 20 years there. Many of them helped with the U.S. efforts, putting themselves and their families in danger of retaliation from the Taliban regime that now controls the country.

  • “There has been full support from all areas — nonpartisan support — to ensure that we are welcoming those refugees from Afghanistan,” West says. “It’s a national effort, not just in North Carolina.”

Go deeper: The many ways the fall of Afghanistan hits home in Charlotte


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