Loudoun Co. could become a “safe haven” for Afghan asylum seekers

Laudan County, Virginia, is considered a place for temporary resettlement of asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

Laudan County, Virginia, is considered a place for temporary resettlement of asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

Phyllis Randall, chairwoman of the Laudan County Supervisory Board, told WTOP that the contracts had not yet been signed, but asylum seekers would arrive “after March 1.”

Randall said the newcomers will be in the county for a month, “until they head to their final destination, which will be across the country.”

Although the venue was not selected, Sheriff Mike Chapman said in a statement that the venue would be a National Conference Center and that asylum seekers, who he said were mostly from Qatar, would remain in Laudan County in groups of 1,000 people. every month until September.

Ashburn County Governor Mike Turner said: “I think this is a huge opportunity for Northern Virginia, and especially for the Lansdowne community, to welcome people who have literally fought with us for 20 years who have been snatched away, whose lives are in danger. motherland “.

Randall said federal officials told them that asylum seekers had been screened and surveyed and made up about 65% of women and children. “There are women who were school teachers and taught girls – and, of course, the Taliban did not allow girls to teach. They are embassy staff. They are translators for the U.S. military. They were conductors; they are allies. “

Chapman told WTOP that he felt a possible arrival had been thrown at him, and had concerns about coordinating public safety and other services.

“Internal security – I mean, they had a great team there, but they approached individual stakeholders individually. And it worried me, “Well, wait, do we just have a roundtable?” He said a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at his office with federal and county officials, as well as religious organizations that can help. .

While Randall and Turner said the “shelter” would have federal security, Chapman said most of such facilities were military bases, while with the proposed site, nothing prevents anyone from leaving the site. And if that happens and you have language problems … it’s important that we know that we have the appropriate language skills to speak Farsi or Punjabi or any language … because we need to be able to understand you you know Afghans as they should be able to understand us ”.

However, Chapman added that setting up the roundtable softened his concerns: “I feel much better than just a day or two ago.”

At a briefing with Homeland Security officials on Friday, Turner said he had asked to set up a reception committee to interact with newcomers on a weekly basis, “to share cultural exchanges, meet and let them know they’re welcome here. And he said, “It’s happened in every safe haven we’ve created so far – the community has really accepted these people and welcomed them in a really positive way.” So I think it’s an opportunity for a real success story and I’m very excited. ”

Christy King and Neil Augstein of WTOP contributed to this report.

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