INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Department of Homeland Security and roughly 50 Islam leaders are collaborating to figure out what’s next for the thousands of refugees at Camp Atterbury. It’s the first meeting of its kind between federal and state leaders at the Islamic society of North America in Plainfield.
Since the first Afghans arrived, the DHS has taken countless calls. The hope is that, through this meeting, mosque leaders will be able to get direct information from officials and ask the important questions to take back to their congregations.
Camp Atterbury’s refugee population sits at nearly 7,000. As hundreds of Afghan guests leave to live with family, hundreds more take their place.
“As you know, this is going to be something that will take time. It’s not a one week or one month operation,” said ISNA executive director Basharat Saleem.
Resettling such a large population takes time. And it comes with a lot of questions. That’s why nearly 50 greater Indianapolis area mosque leaders have come together at the national organization, ISNA, hoping to get answers from the federal government to figure out what’s next.
“We as a faith organization are very aware of that. We also understand that when they are based at a camp, the officials may or may not know all the details of their needs,” Saleem said. “So we were helping in that direction.”
Nearly half of the population at Camp Atterbury is under 14 years old, with families averaging seven to eight people — so housing is a great concern.
With thousands to consider, there’s not concrete timeline for resettlement, but it will not be done by the end of the year.
“What kind of help they need, what kind of assistance they need, how well they are doing, if there are things that we as a community can be doing to assist or alleviate some of the issues there,” said ISNA communication coordinator Haroon Imtiaz.
Part of this initial meeting also brought up other ways to collaborate to move things along. Then, for a about an hour, mosque leaders asked a series of questions about capacity, needs, job access and more.
Islamic leaders said Hoosiers know about compassion. And now is the time to let it flow.
“This is definitely a humanitarian issue,” said Imtiaz.