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Posted on: November 18, 2021

Mayor Lee Harris' Update on Welcoming Afghan Refugees

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Since the end of the conflict in Afghanistan this August, federal officials say more than 123,000 Afghans have been airlifted out of their homeland. Thousands of Afghan evacuees were brought to the United States and some are now in Shelby County. It is my honor to welcome them.

The 20-year conflict in Afghanistan was our nation’s longest military engagement. During those years, thousands of Afghan people supported U.S. and NATO troops. They worked as translators, guides, and in other capacities. They embraced democratic values. Their unselfish actions put them and their families in grave danger and made it unsafe for them to stay in their home country.

Helping these refugees settle here, find their footing, and feel welcomed in our community is the very least we can do to repay what is a huge debt.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Basir Akrami, an Afghan refugee, who fled with his wife and two young daughters. Basir worked for several years in security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. But with the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces, his home was no longer safe. 

Helping Afghan Refugees

We have a moral obligation to help Afghan refugees, like Basir Akrami, settle and be safe here in the United States and in Shelby County.

When we met him, Basir and his family had only been here five days, but had already been wrapped up in our warm Southern hospitality. We can and should keep that sentiment alive for all of the new families coming to Shelby County.

A lot of the logistical work, like help with finding housing and jobs, is being done by our partner, World Relief Memphis. We provided Shelby County welcome bags for Basir and other expected Afghan families. We included Grizzlies swag, a map to local attractions, and a popular seasoning blend from Huey's. I would like to thank Kroger, the Grizzlies, 17 Berkshire, New Memphis, Huey's, and Sysco Foods for their donations. It’s just a small token to say welcome. In addition, we made a financial contribution to World Relief, which they will use to provide new beds for the Afghan families.

This summer, I sent a letter to President Joe Biden assuring him that Shelby County Government was prepared to provide support and stability for the refugees fleeing Afghanistan. I believe we have a moral duty to do all we can to help those who bravely faced danger to aid our troops.

Shelby County has always welcomed immigrants. They open businesses, revitalize communities, broaden our cultural base, and become valued members of our community. They make us better. There is always room for one more family or one more refugee facing dire circumstances at home. Shelby County has the will and we have a responsibility to help. And for this new group of refugees, it's the least we can do to repay a tremendous debt.


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