New Bedford taking in up to 5 families of Afghan refugees

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — As many as five families of Afghan refugees will soon call New Bedford home.

Helena DaSilva Hughes, president of the city’s Immigrants Assistance Center, tells 12 News they’re teaming up with the International Institute of New England to make New Bedford a safe haven for refugees.

“New Bedford has always been a city of welcoming immigrants, and now we’re welcoming our refugee allies,” DaSilva Hughes said. “These are people who helped the United States while we were in Afghanistan, so it just makes tremendous sense for us to provide as much help and support that we can.”

Right now, the city is ensuring the refugees have access to affordable housing, jobs and education. DaSilva Hughes said providing them with these assets will help them in their transition to American life.

“They’re coming in and leaving everything behind … really being forced out of their country and are coming into a new country, a new culture, a new language,” she said.

Upon their arrival at the airport, the families will be given the resources they need to thrive in their new home.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the city is well-prepared to support them, adding that this isn’t the first time they’ve taken in refugees.

Back in 2017, he said nearly 300 refugees from Puerto Rico resettled in New Bedford after Hurricane Maria destroyed their homes.

“In that case, there were a few hundred families that came to New Bedford, so this is actually an undertaking on a much smaller scale,” he said, adding that it’s an undertaking that’s not only an obligation, but also a way to thank them.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure it works for them and that they can become Americans … they can get on a track to citizenship,” Mitchell said. “Frankly, they deserve it for what they did for our men and women in uniform.”

There’s currently no clear timeline as to when the families will be arriving in New Bedford, but Mitchell anticipates they’ll be here within a matter of weeks.

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