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U.S. closes Afghan safe haven, transitions resettlement efforts

The Department of Homeland Security announces it will close its safe haven for Afghan nationals at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va., and will resettle Afghans directly into communities across the United States. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b1ff3d4daaf49f95c1d8712cfd78f308/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Department of Homeland Security announces it will close its safe haven for Afghan nationals at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va., and will resettle Afghans directly into communities across the United States. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Relocation efforts for Afghan nationals, housed at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va., as part of Operation Allies Welcome, have wrapped up.

All Afghans have moved out of the safe haven to join communities across the United States, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday. Moving forward, the department said future Afghan nationals will travel directly to their new communities, instead of stopping at the facility.

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"While operations at the NCC have come to an end, the work continues," said John Lafferty, senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome. "We remain fully committed to continuing the work of welcoming and resettling Afghan nationals."

More than 4,500 Afghan nationals have been temporarily housed at the NCC since March when they were granted temporary legal status amid the ongoing uncertainty and continued armed conflict in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

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"This effort has rallied support from numerous agencies across the federal government, state and local governments, resettlement agencies, veterans, faith-based organizations and volunteers from local communities across the United States," Lafferty said.

Since the Taliban forcibly swept back to power last year, Afghanistan has faced a collapsing public sector and economy, drought, food and water shortages, as well as a lack of medical services.

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To date, about 88,500 Afghan nationals have arrived in the U.S. as part of OAW where they have undergone a rigorous screening and received age-appropriate vaccinations before moving to their new homes.

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"Starting in August 2021, at the President's direction, the Department of Homeland Security has served as the lead federal agency coordinating Operation Allies Welcome, a whole-of-society effort to help vulnerable Afghans resettle," Lafferty said.

"In the past year, we have watched the country come together to support the historic resettlement of our Afghan Allies," said Julieta Valls Noyes, secretary for the Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

"As we close the National Conference Center as a safe haven for Operation Allies Welcome, we will sustain our enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan with the same passion, care and solidarity that guided the State Department and our partners over the past year."

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