State officials and the Indiana National Guard say Afghan refugees could make their way to Camp Atterbury in Johnson County in as little as a few days or early next week.
The first group is expected to be around 1,000 people. More evacuees could be added in increments of 1,000, says Brigadier General R. Dale Lyles, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard.
The camp is prepared for up to 5,000 evacuees.
Before their arrival, the refugees will undergo three rounds of multi-agency extensive vetting. Those agencies include the FBI and departments of State and Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Defense.
According to Governor Eric Holcomb, the evacuees were already vetted once upon their exit out of Afghanistan.
There will be three more rounds of vetting: vetting to clear them to fly to the U.S., vetting once they land in the U.S., and vetting once they arrive to Camp Atterbury.
“I would appeal to people’s hearts and minds in the sense that these are the same folks who for decades have assisted and aided us in a very dangerous terrain,” said Gov. Holcomb. “For those citizens out there who may be questioning, this is where transparency will be paramount.”
The final round of vetting at Camp Atterbury will include a medical screening.
“They will be held in a medical hold status of what we think will be about 14 days to determine their medical status,” explained Lyles.
All evacuees will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine but it is not mandatory. They will have to get the required immunizations to get a visa including polio and measles.
Additional support is coming from Fort Knox and Fort Hood including military police and medical staff. Lyles said with the current surge in COVID hospitalizations in Indiana, Camp Atterbury will have extra physicians, nurses and medics on hand to prevent a strain on local hospitals.
“We have identified potentially a cohort of evacuees that may have COVID,” said Gen. Lyles.
Those evacuees will be tested at least three times for COVID – once upon leaving either Europe or the Middle East, once upon arriving at the airport, and once upon arriving to Camp Atterbury.
Lyles says once evacuees get through the medical screening process, they expect their stay at Camp Atterbury to be a “matter of single digit weeks.”
For the evacuees who qualify for special immigrant visas, Lyles say they will be able to leave Camp Atterbury, either with family who lives in the United States or at a location determined by “non-governmental organizations.”
Hoosiers who want to provide aid are asked to call the Indiana National Guard at 317-247-3559.