INDIANAPOLIS–The first thousand Afghan refugees should arrive at Indiana’s Camp Atterbury by this weekend.
Camp Atterbury will temporarily house a total of five-thousand evacuees from Afghanistan. Indiana National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles said they’ll be vetted by the FBI and the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security before leaving for the U.S. from Europe or the Middle East, and again when they land. They’ll undergo medical screenings when they arrive at Atterbury.
Lyles said all arrivals will stay at the base near Edinburgh for at least two weeks to complete the medical screenings. Those with special immigrant visas can leave as soon as they’re medically cleared. Governor Holcomb said the Pentagon has advised that those with lower-priority visas will stay “weeks, not months” beyond that.
Lyles said Atterbury is equipped to handle the influx. Families will be housed in dorms on the 46,000-acre property, while those arriving alone may be housed in open-layout barracks. The base has its own medical clinic, and is contracting to bring in extra equipment like X-ray machines. Lyles said the Guard is mindful of the strain that hospitals are under from the coronavirus pandemic, and will make sure the refugees don’t add to it.
The Guard will offer evacuees the COVID vaccine, and will administer other vaccinations required in Indiana, like those for measles and polio.
Lyles saidthere’s been an outpouring of Hoosiers wanting to help. Right now, it’s not clear what help will be needed. Lyles said the Guard is setting up a procedure to handle those offers. For now, he said, people should call the Guard at (317) 247-3559, and they’ll take your name and get back to you.
Holcomb said those offers of help have included businesses offering to hire Afghans. He said many refugees will be joining family members already in the U.S., but said Indiana’s ready to welcome those who want to settle here. He said many of those who fled Afghanistan literally risked their lives to help American troops, and said Indiana should be ready to go “the extra distance” to help them in return.
LISTEN: Holcomb and Lyles speak on the evacuees.
Lyles said over 800 military police, doctors and nurses will be coming to help out with serving the evacuees. Atterbury housed prisoners during World War II, some of whom settled in Indiana after the war.
Lyles said the evacuees will be tested for COVID.
“We have a pretty good handle on what to expect with COVID,” said Lyles, who said he has been working with state Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box on precautions.