How many Afghan refugees are coming to NJ? New report lays out housing plan – Courier Post

JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST – Up to 9,500 Afghan refugees could live here for a year, a military report says.
The refugees would occupy existing and temporary housing at the South Jersey base, including a massive “tent city” on a 24.6-acre parade ground at Fort Dix, according to the report.
The newcomers, classified as Afghan Special Immigrants, would live “within the Burlington County portion” of the 42,000-acre base, said the report, a draft assessment of the plan’s environmental impact.
The study predicted “no significant adverse effects” on the environment from housing Afghans fleeing a Taliban takeover of their country.
Earlier: Defense Department: Afghan refugees being flown to South Jersey base
It described the refugees as people who “supported the US mission and forces in Afghanistan for the past 20 years,” as well as their families.
Some refugees already have arrived at the base, which extends into Ocean County, Derek VanHorn, a spokesman for the installation said Thursday.
“We expect these arrivals to continue throughout today and the coming days,” he said.
More: Here’s how to help with Afghan refugee relief in New Jersey and elsewhere
More: Here’s how to help with Afghan refugee relief in New Jersey and elsewhere
According to the report, the refugee population could include more than 4,500 people in a complex of 378 tents, each holding up to a dozen people, on the Doughboy Parade Grounds.
The housing effort also could require up to 1,500 support personnel.
The report said temporary shelters would have power from electric generators and access to showers and latrines.
Residents also would be provided with meals, medical care, refuse collection and religious support, among other “basic life services.”
The report said refugees could live at the base for a minimum of six months and for as long as a year.
Construction efforts “are estimated to require up to 30 days to reach full operations capacity,” the report added.
Those efforts could include the installation of “security fencing to separate the temporary facilities from other areas,” it noted.
The draft report, described as “part of contingency planning and preparation,” noted the Air Force had ruled out the option of taking no action at the base.
“Due to the critical nature of the deteriorating security and instability in Afghanistan, shelter locations are urgently needed to house (refugees) and U.S. support personnel,” it observed.
It said other sites at the base were ruled out for a variety of reasons, including the condition of buildings, the distance from air terminal facilities or “proximity to private housing or schools.”
“Several open areas, including the former location of Walson Hospital in the Dix area
and undeveloped land in the Lakehurst area of (the base) were eliminated from consideration since they did not meet the screening criteria,” the report said.
The draft report indicated efforts to assess the environmental impact were under way on Aug. 19, four days after Taliban forces took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.
It requested public and agency comments by Saturday, Aug. 28, “due to the urgent and time sensitive nature of the proposal.”
The South Jersey base is one of four military installations in this country being used to shelter refugees.
People fleeing Afghanistan are also being taken to Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
Staff writer Carol Comegno contributed to this report.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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