RI will welcome first group of Afghan refugees next week


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The first group of Afghan evacuees seeking refuge in the Ocean State are scheduled to arrive next week, according to Kathy Cloutier, executive director of the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island.

The first family to arrive, according to Cloutier, will be Amin Faqiry’s family.

“They have a friend here already in Rhode Island, so they know somebody, which’ll go a long way,” Cloutier said.

The 31-year-old worked as an Afghan interpreter for the United States military for nearly a decade. Faqiry, his pregnant wife and their four children chose to resettle in Rhode Island after forming a friendship with Providence College counselor Dr. Jonathan Dator.

Faqiry met Dator through the nonprofit organization “No One Left Behind.” When Dator heard Faqiry needed help escaping Afghanisatan, he worked hard to get his friend out of danger.

Since fleeing their tiny apartment in Kabul in late August, the Faqiry’s have been staying at a military base in New Jersey.

“It’s pretty tight quarters, so they’re definitely ready to come here and they’re super excited,” Dator said. “They’re going to have refuge and get to know a new city, a new place, and we’re actually going to be living in the same city. So I’m very excited.”

Cloutier said up to six Afghan families will be transported to Rhode Island each week until March. While most smaller Afghan families will be provided housing through Dorcas, larger families will temporarily reside with host families due to the ongoing housing shortage.

“There really is a very tight housing market here in Rhode Island,” Cloutier said.

Since the Faqirys will soon be a family of seven, Cloutier said they’ll be placed with a host family until a larger apartment is available.

In addition to the Faqirys, Cloutier said two more families will be arriving in Rhode Island sometime next week.

“The pipeline is starting to open up,” she said. “These folks actually helped our troops for 20 years and they were our allies … so I do think we have a moral obligation [to help them].”

When all is said and done, Rhode Island is expected to take in 250 refugees, of which 100 will be resettled by the Diocese of Providence and the remaining 150 will be assisted by Dorcas.

All of the refugees will be greeted by an interpreter and other local Afghans upon their arrival.

“We have engaged Afghans that are already in Rhode Island to be available to help,” Cloutier said. “We really try to acknowledge and recognize their culture … and recognize how traumatic it is, quite frankly, to walk into a new culture.”

Cloutier said Dorcas will ensure that the refugees transition smoothly into American life by providing them with the necessities, helping them with job placement and registering their children for school.

“We do everything we can with which to make them feel comfortable, but also to ensure that they’re surrounded by people who are wishing them well and wanting to help,” Cloutier said.

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