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Boise begins welcoming dozens of Afghan refugees

Since 2000, Idaho has welcomed 844 refugees from Afghanistan.

BOISE, Idaho — The month of October is typically a slow month for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Boise, but that’s not the case for October 2021.

Because of the evacuation status in Afghanistan, IRC is working to resettle refugees. Under former President Donald Trump's administration, the national refugee cap was set at 15,000. In early May, President Joe Biden's administration announced the cap would increase to 62,500.

IRC will soon welcome 58 Afghan refugees to Boise. The college of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Centers is also preparing to resettle another 50 Afghans in Twin Falls.

“This month we started receiving the first arrivals, especially from the Afghanistan Evacuee Program, so we are really excited that people have a chance for safety now, especially after the last four years. [They] have been really, really small numbers of arrivals, in terms of historic norms and resources,” said Georgette Siqueiros, the development and community engagement manager at IRC.

Since 2000, Idaho has welcomed 844 refugees from Afghanistan. During IRC's fiscal year of 2021, they welcomed a record low of 136 new arrivals. By the end of their fiscal year of 2022, they plan to welcome a total of 490 refugees and Afghan families.

“When we do airport arrivals, there can be so many different emotions, especially if it's a family reunification. There's a lot of joy and happiness, right now especially with the Afghanistan evacuees program," Siqueiros said. "We are seeing some different challenges as well, as a lot of people are arriving in an extremely emotional state, for people who didn't expect to be evacuated from one day to the next. It can be a roller coaster, so we see a lot of highs and a lot of lows for sure."

Siqueiros added that refugees are happy to be in their new homes. Affordable housing for this many refugees is something that IRC is struggling to find.

“We are seeing a lot of people arrive at one time whereas October is typically a very quiet month for refugee resettlement,” she said. “We are definitely looking at a lot of solutions and options. When people first arrive, we look into transitional housing so it's definitely a process our housing market right now looking different than it has in the past.”

IRC is working with the community and current supporters to develop more affordable housing projects while refugees are in transitional homes.

Because refugee resettlement numbers were at record lows during the Trump administration, IRC is feeling the challenge from the increased demand. In response, they are hiring housing specialists and employment specialists to keep up.

“IRC will be here and we will continue to be here to make sure all needs are met," Siqueiros said.

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