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Memphis Agency Prepares to Receive Afghan Refugee Families

World Relief
Courtesy of World Relief Memphis
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Memphis is expected to resettle over 300 refugees in the coming year.

A Memphis refugee resettlement agency is advocating for the city to take in more Afghan nationals who aided the U.S. government during its two-decades long war in the country.

At least two families are already expected to arrive here in the next few weeks, says PJ Moore, head of World Relief Memphis. The families are some of the thousands eligible for what are known as Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). Applying for one is reserved for Afghans who provided military or diplomatic missions with services such as translation, but it has historically been a drawn-out, bureaucratic undertaking, leaving thousands in vulnerable situations while they wait.

“[They] are those who have served alongside our U.S. forces, have interpreted for them, have saved lives of some of our American troops, and they deserve to be resettled in a place of safety,” Moore says.

After the Taliban took control of the capital Kabul on Sunday, the American military has scrambled to carry out mass evacuations from Afghanistan. The Pentagon says they intend to move some 20,000 SIV applicants and their families out of the country. But, aid organizations say many are struggling to reach the airport in Kabul and scores of others who are eligible haven’t yet started the application process.

World Relief Memphis sent staff to Fort Lee in Virginia to help process paperwork for those who have secured passage to the U.S. and now await resettlement.

During the Trump presidency, Moore says Memphis saw the overall number of refugees it welcomed each year drop to less than 50, down from about 300 individuals in the year before Trump took office.

Now, the organization is scaling up its operations in anticipation of resettling 361 from all over the world this coming year. It has hired more staff and added warehouse space to store donated furniture.

It’s uncertain how many additional Afghans could be placed here in the coming months as evacuations continue overseas, but Moore is lobbying for an influx.

“This crisis we are walking through right now—with the fall of Kabul and Afghanistan—it will go hand in hand with our [other] build back efforts,” he says.

The organization is in need of gently-used kitchen tables, couches and bed frames to help outfit arriving families. Donation information and volunteer opportunities can be found here.