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Missoula County to State Department: ‘We’d be proud’ to aid in Afghan resettlement

As the Department of State vets and resettles Afghan nationals who worked alongside U.S. forces and other agencies during the nation’s longest war, Missoula County is reaching out to welcome them in.

Commissioners have signed a letter to the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration within the State Department saying it’s willing and ready to support the resettlement efforts through local programs, including the International Rescue Committee and Soft Landing Missoula.

“Some of the Afghan refugees are being resettled in Montana,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury. “In addition to that, there’s a population of folks who have been assisting our military throughout the world who are Afghan nationals and can no longer return home. These are people who have been thoroughly vetted and have assisted our military across the globe.”

The International Rescue Committee, which reopened its office in Missoula five years ago, has resettled hundreds of refugees in Missoula from a growing list of nations, including Iraq, the Congo and Syria, among others.

The agency also is working to ensure any Afghan nationals settled in Missoula find housing and employment in an effort to “get them as self-sufficient as quickly as possible.”

“Several of these individuals have already resettled and enriched our community, and we look forward to the opportunity to welcome more,” the county wrote in its letter. “Missoula County takes our humanitarian obligations seriously. We would be proud to help in this endeavor and support the continued resettlement through the IRC and Soft Landing”

Commissioners describe Missoula as an ideal city for resettlement, and notes past efforts in doing so. Hundreds of Hmong refugees resettled in Missoula in the late 1970s and 1980s, later joined by Ukrainians and Belarusians.

More recently, hundreds of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Iraq and Eritrea also have arrived. Afghan nationals began arriving shortly after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August.

“It would be an honor to host these folks who have worked with our military in tough spots throughout the world,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “Hopefully we’ll be able to help them out.”

IRC working to resettle Afghan nationals, allies in Missoula as U.S. withdrawal concludes