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Indiana to receive 1st Afghan refugees as early as this week

September 1, 2021 GMT
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, speaks with National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles, during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. They announced that about 1,000 Afghanistan evacuees could begin arriving at Indiana's Camp Atterbury military based in the coming days. (AP Photo/Tom Davies)
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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, speaks with National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles, during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. They announced that about 1,000 Afghanistan evacuees could begin arriving at Indiana's Camp Atterbury military based in the coming days. (AP Photo/Tom Davies)
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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, speaks with National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles, during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. They announced that about 1,000 Afghanistan evacuees could begin arriving at Indiana's Camp Atterbury military based in the coming days. (AP Photo/Tom Davies)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Roughly 1,000 Afghan refugees could arrive as early as this week at the Indiana National Guard’s Camp Atterbury training base, where they will be provided temporary housing and support services before being resettled, state officials announced Wednesday.

Camp Atterbury, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Indianapolis, is expected to receive approximately 5,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, said Indiana National Guard Adjutant Gen. R. Dale Lyles.

Lyles said active-duty and National Guard service members will provide housing, medical, logistics and transportation services for the refugees. An additional 800 Army soldiers from Fort Hood in Texas and a medical team from Fort Knox in Kentucky will arrive at Camp Atterbury on Wednesday night, he added.

The refugees will be subject to a 14-day quarantine at Camp Atterbury to determine their medical and visa statuses. Non-governmental agencies will aim to resettle them within 10 weeks, Lyles said.

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The 46,000-acre camp will provide families with dorm-style housing, and individual evacuees will be situated in open barracks.

The base can house up to 10,000 people. Lyles noted that capacity could be expanded if needed.

The last U.S. forces flew out of Kabul’s airport late Monday, ending America’s longest war following an airlift of Afghans, Americans and others escaping a country once again ruled by the Taliban.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the operation is federally funded and comes at no cost to the state.

“These are the same folks who, for decades, have assisted and aided us on a very dangerous terrain,” Holcomb said during a news conference Wednesday. “We need to be there for folks who were there for us. Period.”

Asked what the state is doing to ensure the safety of the surrounding community, the Republican governor said he would remain “transparent” throughout the process to ensure Hoosiers are comfortable.

Lyles said the National Guard has heightened security around the camp and that the refugees were being vetted through a “multidimensional” process that involves various governmental agencies.

The screening begins when they leave Afghanistan, continues when they land in the U.S. and again when they arrive at Camp Atterbury.

“As far as the evacuees presenting a risk to the surrounding community, that risk has been all but eliminated by the vetting process,” Lyles said. “We know who’s coming to Camp Atterbury.”

The refugees will also be required to take COVID-19 tests before and during their arrival at Camp Atterbury, Lyles said. He added that any who test positive will be quarantined.

COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines needed to obtain a visa will be offered, Lyles said. Evacuees will also be allowed to go to and from the base after the 14-day quarantine period as they await resettlement assignments.

While an additional 220 National Guard members have been activated to help at Camp Atterbury, Lyles said guard members assisting with the state health department’s ongoing effort to administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines will not be affected.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.