Governor Holcomb gives more Afghan evacuee answers

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Gov. Eric Holcomb (L) and Brig. Gen R. Dale Lyles (R)

INDIANAPOLIS — Even though he’s been on the phone with federal authorities since last Friday night, Governor Eric Holcomb told FOX59 News he still has several unanswered questions regarding the pending arrival of Afghan evacuees at Camp Atterbury in Johnson County.

“What questions are you asking?” I asked the governor after an appearance before the Ellettsville Chamber of Commerce in Monroe County. 

“Numbers?” he said. “When? Expectations? Those are the basics and everything in between as well.”

The governor said he expects to update the state on the resettlement plans before the end of the week.

Word broke this morning in a tweet from Congressman Greg Pence that he was told Camp Atterbury should expect five thousand Afghan evacuees.

“Task Force Atterbury, consisting of active-duty and National Guard service members supporting this federal mission, will provide housing, medical, logistics, and transportation when the Afghans arrive, which has yet to be determined,” read a statement released hours later by the Department of Defense.

During an afternoon briefing, it was learned that the evacuees will be vetted overseas before arriving in the United States and will be tested for COVID-19 before coming to Indiana and offered vaccinations.

The evacuees will be given a choice of resettlement location.

“This is gonna be a temporary home or temporary setting to fulfill the processing stage and we will make sure that as a state that we’re very transparent in making those connections so that if you want to help with a new family or individual, you know what the avenues are and how to approach that,” said Holcomb. “We’re hearing a lot of and receiving a lot of input from folks who want to help all over the state and all over the country. Organizations, non-governmental organizations, churches, individuals that want to help from A-Z, for someone who is undoubtedly going to step off an airplane, very tired, probably hungry, off-balance and seeking some stability.”

Whether or not any of the evacuees choose to make their permanent homes in Indiana, Governor Holcomb reminded Hoosiers of the sacrifices these visitors made to leave their homeland and come to the United States.

“The state of Indiana is here to aid those who have aided us, who have literally been prepared to lay down their lives over the course of a twenty-year period so that we could enjoy our life and liberty and anything we can do toward that end in partnership obviously with the Indiana National Guard, who will be the lead in partnership with the state in this federal mission, I have high confidence that we’ll be able to do that.”

Last week the Indiana National Guard indicated it was preparing Camp Atterbury to accept evacuees.

Camp Atterbury is one of eight sites identified today by the DoD as part of the resettlement effort.

Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess told FOX59 News that he is anxiously awaiting guidance from federal and state authorities on their expectations of the impact the evacuees may have on Johnson County.

“The state of Indiana is not gonna do anything under the cover of dark or night,” said the governor, pledging transparency, “and then we will pass on that clarity to our neighbors in every small town and big city in the state of Indiana.”

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