Vermont officials await word on request to resettle 100 Afghan refugees

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The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont is asking the Biden Administration to resettle 100 refugees in Vermont.

Governor Phil Scott reiterated requests to the White House to bring in more refugees, especially those escaping war-torn countries like Afghanistan. As of Wednesday, two days after the U.S. wrapped up its withdrawal, his office was still waiting for a response.

The effort to resettle Afghan civilians in Vermont has the support of Senator Patrick Leahy.

“Vermont has a long history of warmly welcoming refugees who have become an integral part of communities across our state,” Leahy said. “It is fitting that Vermont is stepping up yet again to offer safe haven to vulnerable afghans in their hour of need.”

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is a nonprofit that has helped resettle more than 8,000 refugees in the state, said USCRI Vermont Director Amila Merdzanovic.

“Burma, Bhutan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and others,” she said, ticking off a list of countries the USCRI has worked with in the past. “Vermont is a wonderful, welcoming state,” she said.

Merdzanovic remembers what it feels like making a new home in the U.S. She resettled in Vermont as a refugee from Bosnia in 1995.

“Every refugee that we welcome here and that we support on their path to building a new home, building a new life, building a new community is the beginning of new life,” she said. “Every single arrival is a life saved.”

Tracy Dolan, director of the State Refugee Office, said that if Vermont’s request is approved by the U.S. Department of State, “any number of families could be arriving even within a week or two.”

Dolan, who until recently was deputy health commissioner, said she’s excited about the possibility of helping refugees from Afghanistan build a new life in the U.S.

“I remember being there almost 20 years ago, and just the hospitality, the kindness and safety when I was there. So many emotions now as there are people I’ve met whose lives may change significantly, as a result,” said Dolan.

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