Sponsor a refugee: US asks public to personally support resettlement of Afghan families

US soldier holds an Afghan child in front of refugee tents.
Airman first class Luis Miranda of the United States Air Force greets children among evacuees from Afghanistan living in temporary accommodation at Ramstein Air Base on September 20, 2021 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
  • Nearly half of Afghans living on US military bases are children.
  • US law prevents many from receiving the same benefits as refugees.
  • The new program aims to cover their expenses for the first 90 days.

Many of the 53,000 people evacuated in the hasty US exodus from Afghanistan are legally barred from receiving the full suite of assistance available to those who came to the country as formal refugees. So now the State Department is asking Americans to step up.

In a statement on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of a new initiative, the Sponsor Circle Program, that asks citizens to help ease the transition of Afghans – with money, housing, and jobs.

“The program will enable groups of individuals to form sponsor circles to provide initial resettlement assistance to Afghans as they arrive and build new lives in local communities across the country,” Blinken said.

The way it works: Five or more adults sign up to form a support group for an Afghan family, helping them get out of one of the US military bases where many currently reside after having undergone extensive background checks. This “sponsor circle” is then asked to come up with $US2,275 ($AU3,037) for each resettled person; its members also agree to help provide food and shelter, as well as assistance navigating US bureaucracy and finding steady employment.

Nearly half of Afghans living on US military bases are children, The Wall Street Journal reported this month.

The International Refugee Assistance Project, which has been critical of the Biden administration’s approach to resettlement, welcomed the announcement.

“Veterans, faith groups, and Americans all around the country are ready and eager to welcome Afghans into their communities, and sponsor circles are a new tool to support Afghans as they rebuild their lives in the United States,” Elizabeth Foydel, the group’s sponsorship program director, said in a statement.

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