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Afghan Refugee Arrivals Delayed, Communities Seek Help Setting Up New Homes

Lisa Autry

The resettlement of Afghan refugees in Bowling Green and Owensboro is being delayed by the federal government. 

Originally slated to arrive in Kentucky this month, those refugees now are scheduled to come to the commonwealth in early to mid-October. 

Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky, says most refugees bound for the commonwealth are being held at military bases in Virginia where they’re undergoing security vetting and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

“They are also trying to make our job a little easier by helping to process employment authorization cards while at the military bases, so when they come out it won’t be long before they are able to go to work," Mbanfu said.

Mbanfu added that he thought the 200 refugees coming to Bowling Green and the 100 being resettled in Owensboro should be a boon to local economies struggling with worker shortages. About 7,800 jobs are vacant right now in the ten-county region of south central Kentucky.

Since fleeing violence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, many refugees are resettling with few resources.

"Many people think if they worked with the U.S. military, or with a U.S. entity, they should have a lot of money, which is probably true, but you have to understand the chaos when Kabul fell, and many of them just wanted to flee to safety," Mbanfu said. "Even if they had the money, they didn't have the opportunity to go to the banks to get the money."

The International Center of Kentucky is seeking monetary donations, gently used clothing and furniture, as well as new mattresses, box springs, and other bedding items for the refugees' apartments.  Most of the refugees will arrive with only $1,225 the federal government allots each individual. 

In addition to securing apartments, about 50 host families are needed for the 200 Afghans coming to Bowling Green.

As of late last week, federal officials told Mbanfu the refugees would be released from military camps on Oct. 4 and reach local communities a few days later, but that timeline is fluid.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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