Agencies prepare for Afghan arrivals to Concord

  • Afghan refugees are processed inside Hangar 5 at the Ramstein U.S. Air Base in Germany Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived at the base where he will meet with his German counterpart for talks on Afghanistan. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP) Olivier Douliery

Monitor staff
Published: 9/15/2021 5:49:04 PM

As early as October, evacuated Afghans could begin arriving in Concord to make the area their new home.

Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord is working on plans to resettle 100 Afghans that are expected to arrive in New Hampshire over the next six months. 

Crissie Ferrara, Program Manager for Services for New Americans at Ascentria, said the first Afghan nationals could begin arriving in New Hampshire in two weeks. But those initial arrivals could be delayed by a reported measles outbreak on one of the military bases where people are being screened. 

The biggest challenge for resettlement right now is housing. Ideally, the newcomers would live close to Concord, Nashua or Manchester, where there are support services, public transportation and people can benefit from a sense of community in a new country. 

“We’re still looking,” Ferrara said. “We don’t have nearly enough housing for people.” 

The best option would be to find empty apartments so that families adjusting to life in New Hampshire can have some autonomy during a traumatizing time, Ferrara said. 

But with few available apartments in the area, Ascentria is seeking creative options like housing people in retreat centers. 

The organization had planned to resettle more than 50 refugees prior to the Afghanistan emergency, Ferrara said, but it’s unclear when those people could arrive.

“The problem right now is that everything is changing every day,” she said. 

Jeff Thielman, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England, said the Manchester agency has agreed to receive 50 evacuees from Afghanistan.

“We’re all going to work together to provide people with the basic needs, food, clothing, shelter,” Thielman said. The agency will also work to help refugees with long-term needs such as education and employment.

Under a program called “Operation Allies Welcome,” some 50,000 Afghans are expected to be admitted to the United States, including translators, drivers and others who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war and who feared reprisals by the Taliban, which quickly seized power last month.

Residents who want to help can donate or volunteer their time by going to Ascentria’s website. Donating gift cards or cash is one of the best ways to help new Afghan arrivals, allowing them to buy goods and clothes as they settle into their new home. 

The new arrivals might also need help with transportation to medical appointments and with getting winter coats for the New England winter. 

Beyond that, welcoming individual families into the community and extending dinner invitations will go a long way. 

“If we can have a welcoming atmosphere and welcome our new neighbors, that would be one of the best places to start,” she said. 

Ferrara said there’s a chance that Afghans who arrive in New Hampshire might migrate to Lowell, Massachusetts, where there is an established Afghan immigrant population already. 

“Our hope is that people choose to stay and create a community here,” Ferrara said. “We would definitely want outreach from the community in that regard.”

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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