INDIANAPOLIS — An estimated 5,000 Afghan evacuees will arrive at Camp Atterbury in the coming weeks for a medical screening, COVID test and fourth vetting process to begin their resettlement process in the United States.

“There are individuals at a point for demarcation throughout Europe and the Middle East that are being vetted through a multi-agency, multi-layer (and) multi-dimensional process,” said Brigadier General R. Dale Lyles, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard. “They will then be cleared to fly into the United States where… they will be vetted again.”

Including the initial screening process that allowed refugees to board the planes departing Kabul, the vetting process at Camp Atterbury will be the fourth security and visa processing for Afghans. In Indiana, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be responsible for assisting the refugees with resettlement.

“They will also during this period of time be screened medically and be held in a medical-hold status for about 14 days to determine their medical condition,” Lyles said.

COVID-19 vaccines will be offered to refugees, some of whom may already have the virus and would be quarantined in a separate part of the facility. The camp, which has the capacity to house and train 10,000 soldiers, could adapt to accept more evacuees if needed.

The camp, located in Johnson County, has dining facilities and on-site medical facilities. With dozens of incoming medical professionals, Lyles said officials aimed to reduce any burdens on the surrounding community’s hospital resources, which are strained under the latest COVID-19 numbers.

“We think they will start (arriving) sometime later this week or maybe the next week,” Lyles said. “There is no (financial) burden on the state for this —this is a complete federal mission.”

The dormitories at the camp have the capability to house families, Lyles said, as well as barracks-style housing for single men or women. After the 14-day medical hold, refugees may leave with NGOs or family members already residing in the United States.

Many of the refugees will have recently left their home country after the Afghan government crumbled under the Taliban takeover. Some worked as interpreters or other operational support for U.S. troops and left with their families in the chaotic last days of the U.S. withdrawal.

“The resiliency of all of these evacuees will have been tested because they have been through a very traumatic (experience),” Lyles said, noting that mental health services would be available at the base. “We recognize that as a pre-existing condition when they land and we are setting the conditions to help with that.”

Lyles urged Hoosiers looking to donate to Afghan refugees to call the Indiana National Guard at (317) 247-3559 where someone will note their information and give them future updates on ways to help.

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