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The fall of Afghanistan prompts Lansing refugee resettlement groups to mobilize

Posted at 6:45 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 09:33:33-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan this weekend, storming the capital city of Kabul Sunday and setting off a rush to flee the country.

But across the ocean, here in Mid-Michigan, refugee organizers and Afghan immigrants are determined to help.

Judi Harris, director of refugee services at St. Vincent Catholic Charities, was deployed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to an army base in Virginia to assist with refugees entering the country.

“I've had, you know, some people who've broken down and cried," Harris said. "They're very concerned about their families overseas. We don’t know how many more flights there are going to be if any. There's a lot of uncertainty.”

St. Vincent Catholic Charities
St. Vincent Catholic Charities

Harris said she doesn't know how many Afghan refugees might come to Lansing.

“I don't have any details on the numbers," Harris said. "I've worked with 50 people so far, two groups of 25. They're all families.”

Yusef Sultani, president of the Afghan Association of Michigan, said he fears for his family overseas.

“I'm horrified," Sultani said. "Personally I have family in Afghanistan, and I'm really worried. Days and nights I dream about them, and the situation. Especially my family...they don't have anybody who can take care of them.”

Yusef Sultani, President of the Afghan Association of Michigan
Yusef Sultani, President of the Afghan Association of Michigan

Other Lansing organizations are working to help refugees resettle once they come to the Lansing area.

“Afghanistan refugees right now are people who are trying to flee," said Erica Brown-Binion, executive director of the Refugee Development Center in Lansing. "They have put their lives on the line to help support American troops, to support community members who are in peril. And they deserve a chance at a new life.”

The Refugee Development Center provides education and other resources to refugees to help them acclimate to this new environment.

Samaritas Refugee Services works specifically with unaccompanied minors fleeing to the United States.

“If all goes according to plan and they're fortunate, they will get to come here and build a safe future here," said Kayla Park, community outreach team lead for Samaritas Refugee Services. "And that's what I hope for is that we will see that increase in numbers because I know that the kids are there and they need somewhere to go.”

Harris and Sultani say the community in Lansing is ready to welcome refugees fleeing the violence.

There are several ways to help these organizations support Afghan refugees.

Opportunities to donate to or volunteer for the Refugee Development Center, helping to educate and care for refugees, can be found here.

Opportunities to volunteer with or donate to Samaritas Refugee Services, helping unaccompanied minor refugees can be found here.

And to support the newly established Afghan Association of Michigan, email aainlansingmi@gmail.com.

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