9,500 Afghan Refugees in NJ: Elizabeth Mayor Says City Can’t Help
Efforts to resettle some of the thousands of Afghan refugees already in New Jersey were hit with a snag in Elizabeth, where the city's Democratic leader recently said severe storm damages had already exhausted local resources.
About 400 Elizabeth residents, including 21 Syrian/Afghan refugee families, remained displaced nearly three weeks following Ida, Mayor Chris Bollwage said in a letter to the International Rescue Committee on Sept. 17.
The city has been having difficulty maintaining short-term housing for those displaced and asked the IRC to instead relocate refugees to other nearby communities.
There are about 9,500 Afghan refugees at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, a month since efforts first began to help those fleeing the Taliban, according to military officials.
The estimate given Tuesday by a Department of Defense spokesman was about a thousand more refugees than on Sept. 10, during a visit by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as reported by the Cherry Hill Courier-Post.
An Afghan Refugee Assistance Task Force created by Gov. Phil Murphy on Aug. 27 reports directly to the governor’s office.
When asked about the current population of refugees, the governor’s office directed New Jersey 101.5 back to the Department of Defense.
“We’ll do everything we can for the folks most of whom are here temporarily, and for the folks who ultimately end up staying here, we’ll do everything we can to get them settled,” Murphy said during a state briefing on Sept. 20 when asked for an update on refugees.
The Joint Base is one of four U.S. military facilities designated to house Afghan refugees during the current humanitarian crisis — with the other three in Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas.
Joint Base previously sheltered about 4,000 Yugoslavian refugees in 1999.
Meanwhile, storm-displaced residents in Elizabeth were still waiting to be able to return to apartments as of Tuesday, according to a city spokesperson.
The expectation was for 14 units to get electricity back this week and 40 other units next week, the spokesperson said.