Operation Allies Welcome, the government task force put in charge of relocating Afghan refugees who fled the country, has closed one of the eight military bases within the United States that had been housing refugees.
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that it had resettled all of the refugees who were being housed at Fort Lee in Virginia.
In total, more than 25,000 Afghan evacuees have already been resettled in communities nationwide, while an additional 45,000 Afghans are completing the resettlement process at one of seven other military installments: Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Joint
Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
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“This historic milestone highlights the ongoing commitment and perseverance we have witnessed to safely welcome our Afghan allies to the United States through a whole-of-society effort,” said Robert J. Fenton Jr., senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome. “As we complete operations at Fort Lee, we are incredibly proud of the collaboration that has led to the resettlement of more than 25,000 vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States, into local communities across our country.”
The tens of thousands of refugees who fled from the Taliban at the end of August, which coincided with the conclusion of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, had to undergo biographical and biometric screening before reaching the continental U.S.
“Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians have given — and continue to give — steadfast support as part of Operation Allies Welcome,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, U.S. Northern Command commander. “Last summer, Fort Lee was the first of eight DOD installations to welcome Afghans as they underwent the resettlement process, and today the task force at Fort Lee is the first to bid farewell to the Afghans as they proceed on to their lives in America.”
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The Welcome Fund, a philanthropic organization that provides a national mechanism to help communities that seek to support refugees, and Welcome.US, a group recently created to help Afghan refugees, announced on Wednesday that the Welcome Fund had awarded more than $8.3 million in grants to 28 nonprofit organizations and resettlement agencies.