Up to 100 Afghan refugees will be coming to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area after the U.S. ended its two-decade war in the Middle Eastern country, according to staff with the Harrisonburg refugee relocation organization Church World Service.
“The information I have is that we may see up to 100 people,” said Emily Bender, development and communications coordinator of Church World Service in Virginia and based in Harrisonburg.
She said a timeline for their arrival has not been established.
But when they start arriving, it will probably be several months before all the refugees are here in the area, according to Susannah Lepley, Church World Service director for Virginia and also based in Harrisonburg.
“It’s not like people are going to come all in two weeks,” Lepley said.
The refugees will be coming through a variety of visas, which required vetting, including through the P-1 and P-2 programs, as well as the SIV, or special immigrant visa, according to Bender.
The SIV was created in 2009 with the Afghan Allies Protection Act to help bring over Afghan soldiers who accompanied American soldiers on missions and with duties, according to the U.S. State Department.
The P-2 visa program is for Afghans who worked for contractors as translators or staff for U.S.-based organizations, while the P-1 visa recipients are those recognized as in a high level of danger for retaliation or other violence, according to the State Department.
“At this point, we are really looking for landlords that have space and are willing either to rent on a permanent basis to refugees or for a couple of weeks when folks are first arriving and in the process of finding a permanent place,” Bender said.
The housing crunch in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County has made it more difficult to help refugees from other areas come into the community, Lepley told the Daily News-Record in a late August interview.
Housing has come up as an issue for resettling refugees over the last year or two and has gotten even worse over the past half a year, Lepley said in the previous interview.
“Because of the housing issues, not everyone is going to come to Harrisonburg,” Lepley said Monday. “We’re going to be spreading them out a little bit more.”
She said “more than likely” they will be partnering with Massanetta Springs Conference Center to help shelter the families as they arrive and before more permanent housing can be established.
She also said if churches are interested in sponsoring a family, they should give CWS a call. Donations made to the Harrisonburg CWS will go toward local Afghan relocation efforts, according to Lepley.