US taps private groups to help resettle Afghan refugees

A structure housing Afghan evacuees is seen at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, which has surged housing and supplies to host more than 9,300 Afghans awaiting resettlement in the United States, September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Stewart
The State Department said on Monday it will partner with private groups to help Afghans who have resettled in the United States after Americans pulled out their troops from the country and the Taliban took over the government in Kabul.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have arrived in the United States as part of an American evacuation. Many of them would have been at risk had they remained because of their work over the previous 20 years with US and allied troops or with other US and foreign agencies.

The new programme will allow a groups of adults to form "sponsor circles" to provide initial support to the refugees as they arrive and help them settle in communities across the country, the State Department said.

"Americans of all walks of life have expressed strong interest in helping to welcome these individuals," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"The Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans harnesses this outpouring of support and enables individuals to become directly involved in the welcome and integration of our new neighbors."

The programme, launched in partnership with the private group Community Sponsorship Hub, will expand the government's capacity to resettle the Afghans, complementing the work of the department's nonprofit resettlement agency partners, he said.

President Joe Biden's administration is working to accommodate as many as 50,000 refugees in the United States. Others evacuees are in US installations or stuck in third countries abroad.

Sarah Krause, executive director of the Community Sponsorship Hub, said the sponsorship program will help create enduring bonds between the Afghans and the communities that sponsor them.

The group will certify sponsor circles by conducting background checks, ensuring participants complete mandatory training, and reviewing their pledges to provide financial support and initial resettlement services to Afghan newcomers for the first 90 days after they arrive in a local community.

Some refugee organisations have been pushing for the United States to adopt a program of private or community sponsorship for individual refugees, similar to a model used in Canada.

Last month, former US Presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped launch a new group, Welcome.US, aimed at supporting the Afghan refugees.