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New Bedford prepares to welcome Afghan refugee families

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CIA/Public domain

Refugees from Afghanistan are heading to New Bedford. Up to five families will resettle in the South Coast city once local agencies are able to secure housing for them.

Helena DaSilva Hughes, who directs the Immigrant Assistance Center, is working with landlords to find 6-month leases. The search is challenging in a city where rents have risen sharply in recent years. “So we're also working with the city of New Bedford, because until we find housing, we can't really place these families,” she said.

The Immigrant Assistance Center provides language classes and healthcare to New Bedford’s large immigrant population. DaSilva Hughes said this marks the first time the group has helped resettle refugees.

“New Bedford is a city that has always welcomed immigrants. So it just make sense for refugees from Afghanistan or refugees in general to settle here,” she said. “We are very excited to be able to assist these families who were our allies in Afghanistan.”

The families will likely arrive in a matter of weeks, according to DaSilva Hughes. The International Institute of New England is helping coordinate the resettlement along with the Immigrant Assistance Center.

Nationwide, more than 50,000 Afghan refugees are living at U.S. military bases as they await relocation.