First group of Afghan refugees arrives in N.J.

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The first group of Afghan refugees has arrived at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the Air Force confirmed to NJ Advance Media.

”One bus came in overnight,” said Air Force Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder, the spokesperson assigned to the task force at the joint base.

Citing security concerns, he did not say how many people arrived, how many more are expected or whether air transport has been or will be used. But a press release on the base’s website said the U.S. Air Force is proposing the location serve as a temporary shelter for up to 9,500 Afghans who have Afghan Special Immigrant visas for up to 365 days. On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey would be getting a “significant” number of refugees, but he didn’t offer any specific numbers.

“We will welcome Afghan refugees with open arms here in New Jersey at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” Murphy said in a tweet. “Our state has always served as a shining beacon of hope to the world, and we will do everything in our power to help these refugees rebuild their lives.”

The Defense Department will mostly be overseeing the refugees’ transfer from Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. to Fort Dix, Murphy said.

On Tuesday, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Josh Geltzer told reporters that refugees will be tested for COVID and offered vaccines, as well as full medical screening and other services such as basic family medicine, pediatric care, emergency medicine, basic laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, dental care and mental health services.

“As the process to assist and relocate the Afghan refugees gets underway, the outstanding men and women of the Joint Base are playing a critical role in this humanitarian crisis by meeting the basic needs of temporary housing, food, medical care, resettlement assistance and transportation,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist.

“New Jersey residents and families have already begun to demonstrate their compassion and empathy for the Afghan evacuees by reaching out to offer generous donations and supplies,” he said.

Since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Aug. 14, more than 83,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan in the largest U.S. airlift in history. While the pace has picked up in recent days, it’s still a chaotic scramble as people seek to escape. Those who do make it out will face the many challenges of resettlement, either in the U.S. or somewhere else.

President Joe Biden set an Aug. 31 deadline to complete the U.S.-led evacuation.

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