LEWISTON — A local agency is working to resettle between 50 to 100 Afghan refugees, with families slated to begin arriving next week.

Rilwan Osman, executive director of Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services, said Friday that the Lewiston organization has partnered with the Ethiopian Community Development Council, a national resettlement network based in Arlington, Virginia, on the resettlement effort.

The ECDC is one of two new agencies to join Catholic Charities Maine in resettling as many as 225 refugees in the state. The faith-based agency began resettling Afghan refugees in mid-October, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Many have come directly from American military bases.

By early November, Catholic Charities Maine had welcomed 68 Afghans, all of whom have family ties in Cumberland County,  according to the Portland Press Herald.

Donated clothes have been dropped off at Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services in Lewiston. The items were collected during a donation drive for Afghan families that are expected to resettle in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Osman said Friday that some individuals coming to Lewiston “may already have family ties in different parts of the state.”

With arrivals expected next week, Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services, based at 256 Bartlett St., held a donation drive Wednesday to benefit Afghan families. Osman said they are still looking for volunteers and donations to help the families who are coming.


He said the event Wednesday “had a lot of response from the community and I would like to personally thank those who donated.”

Abdikadir Negeye, who also works for the agency, said donations are still coming in.

“A lot of community members with big heart donated good stuff,” he said. “People are still bringing stuff.”

City officials on Friday said they were unaware of the details tied to the Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services effort, but social services staff said they will meet next week with the resettlement agency to discuss the process.

“If the Afghans are relocated to Lewiston, we will serve them the same way as any other group of folks by way of basic necessities and provide referrals to other social services agencies as needed,” said Elaine Brackett, director of social services for the city.

Maine is only expected to received a small portion of the roughly 60,000 refugees that were evacuated from Afghanistan within days of the U.S. withdrawal. Those working on resettlement efforts as well as city officials have said that among the biggest barriers to resettlement efforts is the current housing market, with low vacancy rates and rising costs.

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