Community meeting

A community meeting is planned for the Afghan “shelter” site of Loudoun

Loudoun County will host an in-person public information meeting on Thursday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lansdowne National Conference Center to inform residents of the potential for the federal government to establish a “safe haven” site there for Afghan asylum seekers. in the USA

“Before the federal government potentially selects Loudoun for this important operation and as promised, I want to share what this means for the residents of this neighborhood, which is also my neighborhood and that of my colleague, the District Supervisor of Ashburn , Mike Turner,” said County Chairman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “The county will continue to be transparent regarding the facts of the federal government’s plans to help our Afghan allies find new homes across the United States; this community meeting will include all stakeholders involved to ensure that all questions are answered publicly.

Randall and Turner will be joined at the meeting by representatives from the federal government and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, according to a county news release. The county also plans to hold meetings with residents as needed.

Up to 1,000 people per month could be accommodated at the National Conference Center from February to September. It would be a “safe haven” facility under the federal government’s Operation “Allies Welcome” to help vulnerable Afghans, those who aided the United States during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and their families. The program also includes COVID-19 isolation and testing, vaccinations and other medical services, as well as screening and support at a US military base before connecting them with non-governmental organizations to help them recover. find new homes in the United States. Asylum seekers will be given cash and cell phones from non-governmental organizations, and required to stay at the National Conference Center.

The operation should begin in March and end no later than September.

Randall and Turner sought to assuage area concerns and ease fear after news broke of a possible safe haven site at the National Conference Center.

Friday morning, Randall and Turner met with the Department of Homeland Security; afterwards, she wrote that the DHS had not yet signed a contract, and “a contract will not be signed if certain entities of the Loudoun government are unwilling to participate in Operation Allies Welcome”.

“They are our allies and the family members of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. Because they are allies of the United States, they and their families cannot return to their home countries without risking being killed by the Taliban, who are now in power,” she wrote on Friday. . She added that they were checked and checked several times before arriving in the United States, and that about 65% are women and children. These include female teachers, interpreters for the US military, women’s rights activists, judges and prosecutors, journalists and others targeted and often murdered by the Taliban.

She also said the site would be secure with controlled entrances and exits and that all services such as security and medical services would be managed on site. She promised that if a contract is signed, she and Turner will hold an in-person public meeting for Lansdowne on Potomac residents before the evacuees arrive, with more meetings as needed. And she said, Turner suggested that the Lansdowne community could engage in welcoming cultural exchanges with asylum families, and offered to coordinate.

“I can assure that our federal partners have been open regarding their planning activities and review of a site in Loudoun County as part of their efforts to relocate our Afghan allies,” Randall wrote. “This possible staging area in Loudoun County for the next phase of Operation Allies Welcome is something we can all be proud of as the United States works to resettle people who were at risk of being killed if they were staying in Afghanistan. They helped us when we were in their country. Now we have to help them by finding new safe homes for them in our country.

Go to loudoun.gov/safehaven for more information, to offer feedback, and to find ways to help.