MAINE, USA — Maine is expecting to welcome between 67 and 100 Afghan evacuees, beginning as soon as this week, according to Catholic Charities Maine.
CCM Immigration and Refugee Services is the lead agency supporting Afghan evacuees coming to the state through the Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) Program. The program is coordinated through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). The program was created by the federal government to assist with the resettlement of people from Afghanistan here in the U.S.
"It was upon all of us to get ready to help," said Charles Mugabe, CMM Refugee and Immigration Services spokesperson.
Catholic Charities Maine, along with dozens of partnering organizations, have been preparing to welcome evacuees for more than a month.
"In the resettlement world, we usually provide support for refugees for 90 days, and that 90 days is basically to support with the initial resettlement period," said Mugabe.
Catholic Charities Maine is contracted to provide 90 days of services to APA program participants to facilitate their resettlement in Maine, including housing, education, and employment support.
Through the APA, evacuees will be granted a one-time, $900 stipend to support their relocation.
"We start providing services from day one," said Reza Jalali, executive director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center. GPIWC is one of the organizations ready to support those coming to Maine from Afghanistan.
More than 50,000 Afghans are expected to arrive in the United States through the APA. Those coming through that federal program do not have refugee status, however, they are being granted entrance for their support of and work with the U.S. during its time in Afghanistan, according to Catholic Charities Maine. Upon arrival in the U.S., they will have to apply for asylum. CCM says those arriving have already undergone a complete medical screening and will arrive with expedited work authorization papers.
"Even teaching them English is step one in ensuring that the new Mainers will integrate well into the workforce, and also in terms of successful integration into the community," said Jalali.
Jalali says that while CCM will only be contracted to be the lead agency supporting Afghan evacuees in Maine for 90-days, work will continue to support them through a number of organizations after.
"To feel valued and belong, because we want them to continue to stay in Maine. In Maine we need young families," said Jalali.
According to Mugabe, CMM is given a roughly 48-hour notice before evacuees are set to arrive in Maine. He says despite arrivals coming at short notice, they will not all be arriving at the same time.
"They're not coming all at once. Not 20, 30 people all at once, no they're coming separately," said Mugabe.
Mugabe says Afghans are expected to be housed in larger metropolitan areas, close to services. He does not expect large emergency shelters to used like what was done at the Portland Expo in 2018 to support Asylum Seekers.