Loudoun County Government Center

Loudoun County is being considered as a site for the temporary relocation of asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, told WTOP that the contracts aren’t signed yet, but that the asylum seekers would arrive starting “after March 1.”

Randall said the new arrivals would be in the county for a month “while they are headed to the final destinations, which will be all over the country.”

While the location hasn’t been picked, Sheriff Mike Chapman said in a statement that the site would be the National Conference Center, and that asylum seekers, whom he said mostly were coming from Qatar, would stay in Loudoun County in groups of 1,000 for a month each through September.

Ashburn District Supervisor Mike Turner said, “I think this is an enormous opportunity for Northern Virginia, and specifically for the Lansdowne community, to welcome people who literally fought alongside us for 20 years, who have been uprooted, whose lives are threatened in their homeland.”

Randall said federal officials told them the asylum seekers have been vetted and screened, and comprised about 65% women and children. “There are women who were schoolteachers and taught girls — and, of course, under the Taliban, girls are not allowed to be taught. They are embassy workers. They are interpreters for the U.S. military. They were guides; they are allies.”

Chapman told WTOP he felt the possible arrival had been sprung on him, and had concerns about coordinating public safety and other services.

“Homeland Security — I mean, they got a great team over there, but they were going individually to different stakeholders. And that was my concern: ‘Well, wait a minute, how about we just have a roundtable meeting?’” He said one was scheduled for Tuesday at his office with federal and county officials, as well as faith-based organizations who can help.

While Randall and Turner said the “safe haven site” would have federal security, Chapman said most such sites have been military bases, whereas with the proposed location, “there’s nothing to prevent anybody from walking off that location there. And if that happens, and you have language problems … it’s important that we know so that we have appropriate language capabilities to communicate in Farsi or Punjabi or whatever language … because we need to be able to understand the, you know, the Afghans, as they need to be able to understand us.”

That said, Chapman added that the establishment of a roundtable meeting alleviated a lot of his concerns: “I feel a whole lot better than I did just a day or two ago.”

At a briefing with officials from the Department of Homeland Security on Friday, Turner said he asked about setting up a welcoming committee to interact with the new arrivals on a weekly basis “to kind of share cultural exchanges and get to know each other and let them know that they’re welcome here. And he said, ‘That’s happened at every safe haven that we’ve set up so far — the community has really embraced these people and welcomed them in a really positive way.’ So I think it’s an opportunity for a real success story, and I’m pretty excited.”

WTOP’s Kristi King and Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time. Reach him at rmassimo@wtop.com

(3) comments

Janet Smith

U.S. population will be 400 million in 2050, less than 30 years, and there is no pro-active planning for the future that I can discern. Everyone who expects to be around in 2050 should be alarmed at the amount of agricultural land and forested land being lost to development.

Donald Quella

Next will be asylum seekers from Ukraine. Earth to VIP National and Local Pols...USA Population is 335 million and 100 million aren't doing well economically. How about the Muslim nations in the Middle East that are receiving huge revenue increases from oil and natural gas exports resettle refugees in their nations? Can't do that, would break 75 years of precedent where the USA gets involved in no-win Third World conflicts and takes in millions of refugees every time the usually-corrupt regime the USA supports is overthrown.

John Dutko

Republicans say those 100 million are lazy and they need to work harder.

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