COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia could become the home of up to 300 Afghan refugees who fled the country amid its downfall to the Taliban.
Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would help those refugees settle across Missouri. The Ethiopian Community Development Council can settle up to another 250 in Kansas City, and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants can settle up to 200 in Kansas City and up to 350 in St. Louis.
Jones said the numbers are subject to change.
The refugees are among those who helped the U.S. military or contractors during the 20-year war in Afghanistan that started as a campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists. The Taliban retook the country as U.S. forces withdrew last month.
The refugees were deemed at risk under the Taliban regime and will be resettled under the Special Visa Program.
The Biden administration told states this week of its plans to resettle about 37,000 Afghans in the United States.
Katie Boyd, communications director for U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, sent an email to ABC 17 News with a statement from U.S. Senator Blunt regarding the Biden administration. He made this statement in August at the Broadband Roundtable meeting in Columbia.
“I’ve encouraged the Biden administration to work with refugee resettlement partners to help vetted Afghan nationals settle in Missouri," Blunt said. "Welcoming and supporting our Afghan allies as they begin their lives in our country will send a message to the world that we stand by those who risked their safety to stand by us. These individuals have a lot to offer, and both they and our state will benefit from their presence.”
Others feel different about how Biden has been addressing the vetting process.
"Joe Biden has left Congress and the people of Missouri in the dark about his plans to resettle Afghanistan evacuees in our state and elsewhere," U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said in a statement. "Missourians are generous and welcoming people, but there are serious questions about the vetting process for many of these refugees. So far, Joe Biden’s resettlement program looks a lot like his withdrawal from Afghanistan: chaotic, poorly planned, and badly executed.”
Jones said the approved Afghans are subject to extensive background checks and collection of biometric data before coming to the state.
Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri will be the first to contact the refugees once they finally arrive here in Columbia. They will pick up all the evacuees at the Columbia airport.
Employees will be holding a banner with the Afghans native languages of Dari and Pashto. The evacuees will also be cooked a meal and put into temporary housing to complete the intake process.
Samantha Moog, director of refugee services at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, says they encourage the entire Columbia Community to help with the adjustment.
"We're incredibly excited to welcome these people in our community, and we hope that the community will join us in embracing our new neighbors," said Moog.
After the refugees get on their feet with the help of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, they can get extra help with resources from the City of Refuge. Barry Stoll is the director of refugee care at the city of refuge here in Columbia.
He says months or even years down the line, and refugees can always come to their organization if they ever need help.
"There's no ending point. We have been helping some folks for 12 years," Stoll said
There arrival date for the refugees is still unknown at this time.