Thousands of Afghan refugees in Indiana approach their first Thanksgiving holiday

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:36 PM EST
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EDINBURGH, Ind. (WAVE) - Thousands of Afghan refugees will be spending Thanksgiving south of Indianapolis at Camp Atterbury.

After escaping the Taliban, more than half of the 7,200 who arrived at the Indiana military facility since September continue to wait to be relocated into housing and jobs in the U.S.

Officials plan to relocate all of the remaining refugees by early 2022. Many could make Indiana their home.

“I’m very excited to start my new life in Indiana,” Afghan refugee Nahid Sharifi said.

In a tearful statement of gratitude, Sharifi described to reporters how she was among the first to arrive at Camp Atterbury in early September.

She said her mother and brother were left behind; separated from the family after a bomb blast in Kabul.

Sharifi now plans to continue her college studies in Bloomington.

“I have a message to the people of the United States,” Sharifi said. “And I want to say that people of the United States has a heart of gold. Thank you so much for everything.”

She will not be alone in putting down roots in the Hoosier state.

State officials said Indiana employers have already rolled out the welcome mat.

“Jobs waiting eager aspirants to fill those jobs in these various communities throughout the country but Hammond, Muncie, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Bloomington, all over our state, " Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

Those with family and friends in the U.S. have perhaps the easiest route to relocation.

Others have the daunting task of starting over with a new life in a new country. They will be more dependent on the generosity of the community they will soon call home.

“None of them have cars yet, so you need good infrastructure for public transportation to get to and from the grocery store, or from a job, or a daycare,” Cole Varga, Exodus Refugee Immigration Executive Director said. “You’ll need a good healthcare system such as we have in several cities.”

Holcomb praised the work at Camp Atterbury.

“So with that, I just I wish everyone, no matter where you have come from or how long you were staying, a very Happy Thanksgiving,” Holcomb said. “We have so much to be thankful for including 7,200 guests who will now become our American neighbors.”

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