South Florida will welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees

Refugees Afghanistan – Courtesy: Idaho News 6 – Image by Scripps National

The Sunshine State is set to become a safe haven for a large group of refugees fleeing Afghanistan.

Kristen Bloom is the Founder and Executive Director of Refugee Assistance Alliance, an organization that aids refugee families once they are settled in South Florida. She was one of the panelists during Tuesday’s World Affairs Council of Miami panel, welcoming Afghan, Syrian, and other refugees to South Florida.

The discussion regarded the refugee community in South Florida and included former Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, District Director of the Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, Nancy Jackson, and Global Ties Miami.

“We will see some refugees from Afghanistan coming to South Florida. We are trying to beef up our services because we know this huge influx is coming,” Bloom said.

“We expect a doubling or tripling of the number of families we support,” she continued.

When it comes to resettling the Afghan families, she said their partner, a resettlement agency, has a fluid view of the situation.

“They have pledged to help in South Florida 300 Afghans, but we don’t know when exactly that will be,” Bloom said.

Part of the ongoing issue is that the U.S. is trying to quickly process tens of thousands of Afghan refugees at one time, and the nation’s complex refugee resettlement infrastructure has been crippled due to declines in federal funding.

“The refugee resettlement process has been decimated over the past few years, so the infrastructure just really is not in place to accommodate so many,” said Bloom. “Under the past five administrations, the refugee cap is usually set around 100,000.”

“Under the previous administration, the refugee cap was slashed to the 40,000, 30,000, 15,000 bands. Because of that, funding was taken away from the refugee resettlement system, so many offices around the US, including in South Florida, had to close their doors. They don’t have the staffing they need to accommodate so many refugees. That is where an organization like ours really comes in to help because we do have volunteers who are ready to help right away and that’s why we think it is so important to pair these community teams with families in our community because the organizations that resettle the families they only have so many people they can only do so much.”

“We have not resettled that many refugees in the past three years combined, so everyone is just scrambling to do what they can to get everything in place.”

This includes asking members of the community for financial support as they try to grow capacity.

“We provide laptops to all of our families, we provide English classes, we provide help if they want to get a driver’s license or study for the GED,” Bloom said.

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