NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Fort Pickett in Blackstone is preparing to temporarily house Afghanistan refugees fleeing from the Taliban to the United States. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner made a stop in Blackstone today and addressed the potential housing plan.
The Department of Defense announced Wednesday night it has chosen to house Afghan refugees at Fort Pickett. Yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam confirmed the base was prepping for the refugees’ arrival.
Warner told 8News, there have been conversations about Fort Pickett housing refugees as the United States looks to complete evacuations from Afghanistan by Aug. 31st.
Warner said, 70,000 people have been evacuated so far and 20,000 were evacuated yesterday. Refugees are entering the country through Dulles International Airport.
The senator said he is working with roughly 3,800 American citizens and Afghans that need help with evacuation efforts involving their loved ones. Fort Lee is the only place in Virginia currently housing evacuees.
“We owe these men and women,” Warner said.
According to Warner, some of the refugees have been working with the United States in Afghanistan for 20 years.
Billy Coleburn is the Mayor of Blackstone, where Fort Pickett is located. Coleburn told 8News, preparations are already underway with crews are cutting the grass and cleaning barracks.
The number of refugees expected is constantly changing every day, but Coleburn is confident that the base is expecting hundreds. Around 2-3 thousand people are trained at the base every summer, so he isn’t worried about available space.
“We can do anything. We’re willing to do anything,” Coleburn said. “Blackstone wants to do all it can to help and support.”
Warner said if Fort Pickett is selected as a housing location, it would operate as a temporary lodging station. Refugees would be tested for COVID-19 at least three times: in Kabul before take off, in another country during a stop and when they land in the U.S. Warner said they have the capabilities to guarantee health safety.
“They’re going to be offered vaccines,” Warner said. “The good news is, they’re taking them at a higher rate than Virginians and if they do come to Fort Pickett, it will be like Fort Lee. It will be the type of place where they’ll come and move on elsewhere in the country.”
A final decision will be made within the next few days.