By Max Blumenfrucht | December 6, 2021
Campuses across the SUNY system are becoming progressively involved with the state’s resettlement effort of Afghan refugees by providing support in the form of educational opportunities, learning equipment, employment, and housing.
SUNY’s 10 Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC) dispersed throughout New York State are helping displaced Afghans who have already begun arriving to enroll in free courses, professional certification programs, and seek job counseling, according to SUNY Afghan Evacuee Liaison Jackie Orchard.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Afghan Placement and Assistance Program, up to “1,143 Afghan nationals evacuated this summer” - following the U.S. pullout from its nearly 20-year war with the country - “could be resettled in communities throughout New York State over the next six months.”
This initiative is well under way as the designated host cities of Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica have been welcoming evacuees to their communities, working with the SUNY system to acclimate new residents.
Buffalo State College, “has partnered with local agencies to reserve vacant dorm space for transitional housing for up to 100 evacuees,” according to a recent press release from Governor Hochul.
SUNY is also speaking with other campuses to see if they have available space to house evacuees from Afghanistan.
Orchard said that SUNY, through the 10 EOC’s, will also be designing free ESL courses for Afghan refugees who largely speak the dialects of Dari, Farsi, and Pashto.
It’s unclear what role the University at Albany will play in directly aiding evacuees or contributing supportive resources, however Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, Director of Media and Community Relations said, “UAlbany has been in contact recently with our local elected officials and organizations that help resettle refugees in the Albany area.”
“We have spoken to them about both the possibility of providing transitional housing and job opportunities for refugees being resettled in the Albany area,” Carleo-Evangelist added.
According to Justin Mason, of the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, about 250 “humanitarian parolees” are expected to resettle in the Albany area. Roughly a quarter of that number have already arrived or are on their way.
The University at Albany is unable to provide apartment-style housing that many resettlement organizations are seeking for newly arriving families as their accommodation facilities are near full capacity. However, the University at Albany is working with resettlement organizations “to better understand their needs so we can react quickly and help as we are able if or when conditions change,” said Carleo-Evangelist.
“We would welcome the opportunity to help some of our newest neighbors establish roots here,” Carleo-Evangelist added.
SUNY has contacted all 64 campuses to locate computers at the end of their institutional cycle, which might be available for donation. These are being transferred to EOC sites where they’ll further benefit evacuees in their educational and professional training experience.
Mason noted that Afghan refugees “admitted to the country…must subsequently seek asylum or some other status before being afforded more permanent residency.”
“SUNY’s goal is to be a good partner to resettlement agencies and make it easy for refugees and evacuees to start a new chapter in New York State by seeking education and joining the workforce,” said Orchard.