Afghan refugees headed for Fort. Pickett
BLACKSTONE, Virginia (WWBT) – The governor of Virginia announced on Tuesday that another Commonwealth military base will house Afghan refugees.
Governor Ralph Northam said refugees are now being sent to Fort Pickett in Blackstone in addition to Fort Lee in Prince George County.
“I so appreciate the humanitarian work that is going on in Virginia and in this country,” Northam said.
About 6,000 refugees have already been treated in the Commonwealth, with more expected in the coming weeks, according to Northam.
“It starts with their landing in Dulles, their treatment, their COVID test, their vaccination offer, and then their transfer to either Fort. Lee or Ft. Pickett. Northam added. “Plans are then made for subsequent disposition, whether they go to other states or stay here in Virginia; about 10% stay here in Virginia.
In a Tuesday afternoon briefing, senior officials in the Biden administration did not confirm Ft. Pickett as another accommodation site. However, they mentioned that the expansion of accommodation sites could occur because they do not want to overburden the communities that are already hosting refugees.
“Fort Lee is only that big, so we have to overflow here,” said Owen Wagoner, a retired US Army veteran. “I would be happy if they could process them at Fort. Pickett, this is great.
According to Governor Northam, Fort Pickett now joins the list of bases across the country helping refugees from Afghanistan. Refugees are now moving to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Dix in New Jersey and Fort Lee. However, the addition of Ft. Pickett does not surprise some.
“Fort Pickett is one of the best training centers in the country on the east coast,” said Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn. “It’s home to the US State Department’s half-billion-dollar facility, so it’s no surprise that we play a role in this type of humanitarian operation.
Coleburn said this was not the first time the base has been used for refugees and others from previous war conflicts.
“During World War II, men who fought for Hitler came to Pickett and were prisoners of war,” Coleburn said. “Fifty years ago, when I was a little boy growing up in Blackstone, we had a large number of Vietnamese refugees who came to Fort. Pickett.
During Tuesday’s briefing, senior officials in the Biden administration said the refugees were subject to extensive biometric security checks before they even set foot on US soil.
These people belong to three groups:
- Americans and Green Card Holders
- Special immigrant visa applicants that include translators and their families
- Other vulnerable refugees from Afghanistan who have been identified
In addition, once these men, women and children are sent to military bases, a full medical examination will take place and will help them obtain work permits.
The mayor of Blackstone said there were mixed feelings about using Pickett as a housing option, but asked residents to remain calm.
“We want to be compassionate and want to accommodate them because what I’ve been told is that a lot of these people and their families put him in danger for the United States,” Coleburn said. “You can’t tell everyone that America is a free and welcoming nation and then not demonstrate it.”
Meanwhile, Northam did not specify how many refugees would be heading to Fort. Pickett, but expected many more to be treated and accommodated there in the near future.
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