Gov. Inslee, Washington groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees

Oct 22, 2021, 1:32 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm
Gov. Inslee speaks at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Oct. 22, 2021. (TVW)

In the coming months, 1,400 Afghan refugees are expected to pass through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport upon their arrival in Washington.

Seattle area groups asking for volunteers to help arriving Afghan refugees

Gov. Jay Inslee spoke Friday from the airport’s Afghan Welcome Center to celebrate the arrival of Afghans evacuating from their home country.

“Today I’m here to declare that Washington state is a welcoming state for the people from Afghanistan, leaving the chaos of Afghanistan to come to the fertile fields of Washington state, to help build our state,” Inslee said.

The governor said about 340 refugees have already arrived in Washington, and another 1,400 people are expected to arrive in the weeks and months ahead.

“We are a compassionate state,” Inslee said, noting that there are three reasons to celebrate this and look at it as a joyous occasion.

The first reason, he explained, is because welcoming refugees is an expression of who we are as a state, and has been part of the state’s history for decades. He says 150,000 refugees have come to Washington from around the world since 1975.

“This is a statement of our values of caring for other people,” he said Friday.

Second, it’s an expression of commitment to our allies in Afghanistan. Third, Inslee said, is because “we are bringing people to our state to help build our state, to build our high-tech companies, to build our medical core, to build our educational system.”

“We know that’s what happens when we bring refugees here,” he said.

Gov. Inslee called on people to help with the volunteer efforts to help refugees rebuild their lives, and condemned the recent local acts of Islamophobia.

King County to repurpose homeless hotel to house Afghan refugees

As the refugees come to Washington to seek safety from the Taliban, health leaders also want to make sure they’re safe from COVID. State Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah said when they arrive, Afghan refugees get access to health care, and are given the vaccine if they haven’t already been able to get it.

“We do everything we can to protect not just the Afghani who is coming in, the families of Afghanis, but also the community at large,” Shah said.

A number of local groups, including the Muslim Association of Puget Sound and CAIR Washington, have stepped up to help refugees as they arrive and start to make a home in Washington. Local businesses are providing housing, helping financially, and assisting in transportation, including Airbnb, Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, and others.

Visit allinwa.org to find out how you can donate funds, supplies, or time as a volunteer.

Watch the full press conference online here.

KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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Gov. Inslee, Washington groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees