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Nearly 2,000 Afghan refugees expected to be resettled in four Missouri cities

Marshall Klimasewiski and his 9-year-old daughter, Amna, were among hundreds of runners and walkers who lined up Saturday morning for the Race for Refugees in St.

by Rebecca Rivas | The Missouri Independent | Nov. 26 2021 | Click here to read the full article

Marshall Klimasewiski and his 9-year-old daughter, Amna, were among hundreds of runners and walkers who lined up Saturday morning for the Race for Refugees in St. Louis.

The International Institute, the city’s refugee resettlement agency, has aided thousands of people fleeing their countries during its 100 years of service, Marshall said.

And the agency is doing so again for about 1,000 new Afghan refugees coming to St. Louis.

“It’s one of the things that we’re proud of about St. Louis,” Marshall said of the institute, “that there has been a tradition of this.”

Two weeks ago, only a couple hundred people were signed up for the race, organizers said, which had been on pause since the onset of the pandemic. But as more images of Afghan refugees coming to St. Louis appeared in the news these past weeks, the numbers more than doubled.

“We didn’t even know that the race was going to be happening right at the same time as everyone coming in,” said race founder and organizer Heather Heuwe. “It just really highlights why this was actually started.”ADVERTISING

About 125 refugees had arrived in St. Louis prior to the race, and now about 50-100 will come each week through the end of the year.

After the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of August, Missouri was set to receive 1,200 Afghan refugees in four of its largest cities. But that number has since grown.

St. Louis will welcome more than 1,000 Afghan refugees. Columbia will resettle about 300, Springfield around 100 and Kansas City will welcome about 550.

Refugee resettlement agencies — which the U.S. Department of State contracts with to provide services such as basic orientation, counseling, food, shelter and health services to refugees — normally have several weeks or months to prepare for new arrivals. But because of the immediate evacuation of Afghan refugees, they only had a few weeks before they began coming in September.

Many of the refugees have been temporarily living on military bases getting vaccinations, background checks and medical checkups, agency leaders said.

Now as they are leaving the bases, the agencies are getting 48 hours to 72 hours notice of when new arrivals are on their way.

“This type of just immediate response is pretty unprecedented and pretty historic,” said Dan Lester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri. “It’s less like typical refugee resettlement and more like natural disaster response.”

Read the full article online here: