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Afghan evacuees begin arriving from U.S. military bases to New Hampshire

Megan Clark holding a blue plastic bag at the Manchester airport baggage carousel.
Sarah Gibson
/
New Hampshire Public Radio
Megan Clark stands near a pile of bags at a luggage carousel at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport.

Over the past ten days, at least 45 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Manchester to rebuild their lives with help from the International Institute of New England. They're coming from U.S. military bases after fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban took over in August.

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Many families are arriving in New Hampshire with only one bag per person, often less, because they had to leave their homes in Afghanistan so quickly. The International Institute's Megan Clark says the organization is getting donations of furniture, clothing, and hygienic supplies for families.

"We want to collect goods to make sure we can provide their basic needs," Clark said. Providing those goods is particularly important, Clark said, because some of these families will be in hotels while the International Institute of New England looks for long-term housing.

Volunteers prepare meals at the International Institute of New England for Afghan evacuees who have just arrived to Manchester.
Courtesy of Ginny Hughes

Volunteers have also helped to distribute winter clothes and prayer rugs, set up apartments, deliver meals, and transport the Institute's clients from the airport.

Clark says the number of Afghans arriving in a few weeks surpasses how many refugees the Institute resettled over the course of recent years, due to caps by the former Trump administration and limitations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In fiscal year 2020, we had 39 people for the entire year," she says. "So we're ramping up operations very quickly."

The Institute will help their clients secure apartments, find jobs, get kids into schools and learn English, among other things. Ascentria Care Alliance is also in the process of resettling evacuees in the Concord area.

The evacuees are eligible for some financial assistance from the U.S. government. Some are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas because of their work with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, but the path to long-term U.S. residency for many is still unclear.