ITHACA, N.Y—Ithaca will be welcoming a total of 10 Afghan refugees to the community, just a tiny fraction of the people who have fled Afghanistan since August, when the chaotic withdrawal of the U.S.’ military presence and Taliban takeover of Kabul caused tens of thousands of Afghans to take flight with their lives in their hands.
The resettlement of the 10 Afghan individuals to the city of gorges is the work of Ithaca Welcomes Refugees (IWR), a non-profit organization which began in 2015 in an effort to help Syrian refugees relocate to the U.S..
Casey Verderosa, the Executive Director of IWR, declined to provide many specific details about the individuals relocating to the community, in part out of respect for their privacy, but largely to allow them to ease into the process of resettling. Verderosa did share that the 10 Afghans are not family.
“The only informationI about the individuals I’ll say is that they’re not families. They’re separate individual people,” said Verderosa.
Nine of the Afghan individuals are already in Ithaca. The tenth individual is coming to Ithaca in a few months, a development which Verderosa learned about last night. There is potential for more Afghan individuals to come to Ithaca in 2022, but Verderosa said that there likely won’t be any other Afghans announced to come to Ithaca before the end of the year.
IWR put in a total of 21 applications to relocate specific Afghan individuals to Ithaca. Verderosa said that all of the individuals IWR have applied to relocate have worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan. Vanderosa said they’re faced with potential reprisals from the Taliban, “and so fear for their lives.”
The U.S. government is allowing Afghans to be relocated to the country through “Humanitarian Parole,” applications, which is a different designation than refugee. Vanderosa described it as a fast-track to getting people in imminent danger out of Afghanistan.
Each application costs $575 to file. IWR exceeded their fundraising goals to meet the total cost of the 21 applications, raising around $26,000 for the organization. IWR received help from Cornell Law with filling out and filing the applications.
Currently, the 10th Afghan refugee is going through a federally contracted resettlement program with InterFaith Works of Central New York in Syracuse. When they arrive, Vanderosa said IWR will begin the work of finding them housing and employment. The other 9 refugees have been assisted with finding housing and employment by a community partner of IWR that would prefer to remain anonymous.
While finding housing for the Afghan individuals already in Ithaca has been a challenge for IWR—a challenge current residents in Ithaca are well familiar with—Verderosa said that there’s been no shortage of work opportunities.
“We actually have a whole bunch of business owners local to the area who have reached out to us offering to employ refugees specifically,” said Verderosa.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick was in contact with IWR in late August and early September to try and connect the organization with housing resources, but Verderosa said that, “it’s definitely still a work in progress.” But she said that IWR has found short term housing for every Afghan that has arrived so far.
Update (12/07/2021): The story originally credited Ithaca Welcomes Refugees (IWR) with the work of finding employment and housing for all 10 Afghan refugees arriving in the Ithaca area. The story has been updated to clarify that the 9 refugees that have already arrived in Ithaca are being assisted by a community partner of the organization.