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Mayor Gaylor Baird on Afghan refugees coming to Lincoln

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 8:46 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Chaotic and heartbreaking scenes of refugees fleeing Afghanistan have been seen by many. The next step is resettling, with tens of thousands coming to the U.S.

In the City of Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and her team have been in talks with the federal government about bringing some of these refugees to the Capital City.

“Several weeks ago when it became clear that there would be a need t welcome new Afghan neighbors to the community those conversations started happening,” Baird said. “As many know Lincoln’s been a refugee resettlement community for decades.”

Nebraska is set to welcome 775 Afghan refugees in total but a timeline remains fluid as to when they could arrive. It’s also still too early on in the process to know how those people will be divided between Omaha and Lincoln.

“That’s an ongoing mission for many in the community, whether it’s our nonprofits, our Lincoln Literacy Programs, and our schools,” Baird said. “Which have all come together to make that transition as smooth as possible.”

Since the 1990s, Lincoln has been designated by the U.S. State Department as refugee-friendly. More than 3,000 Yazidis call Lincoln home, making the Capital City the largest resettlement of the group in North America. Many fleeing from their home country to escape terrorist groups.

Baird said because of the city’s ongoing work with this community, and other resettlement communities like it within Lincoln, it has an extensive network to get people connected to housing, education, jobs and more.

“We have a lot of networks in place, folks who can relate and understand with real specificity to what those needs are,” Baird said.

Afghan refugees started fleeing at the tail end of July, and into August. After U.S. troops completed withdrawal from the county, and the Taliban officially took charge.

Many images show people with only the clothes on their back, and whatever they might have been able to toss into a backpack.

“It’s a major transition and they’re going to need really basic supplies,” Baird said. “They’re gonna need bedding and clothing and they’re going to need to adjust to the winter weather that eventually will arrive in a few months. We are fortunate to have local agencies that are preparing and can accept donations like Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Social Services and our schools.”

Baird said that she knows Lincoln has a history of being welcoming and accommodating in situations like this, so this time won’t be any different.

“It will be an urgent and immediate need, there will be a lot of ways to help and I look forward to seeing our community step up once again for those that need our assistance,” Baird said.

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