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Evacuees to arrive at Fort Pickett in Blackstone Saturday

Northam: 'It should make all of us proud of our country'
Afghan Refugees Virginia
Posted at 4:40 PM, Aug 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-28 18:26:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam provided an update Friday on the state's efforts to help with the ongoing evacuation efforts of tens of thousand of U.S. citizens and their Afghan allies from the capital of Kabul.

Northam praised the efforts of everyone involved in what he called "one of the largest airlifts in history."

"It's nothing short, in my mind, of heroic, and it really makes me proud. It should make all of us proud of our country and also proud of our people," Northam said.

APTOPIX US Afghanistan
Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The governor said Dulles International Airport, which has seen 14,000 evacuees with another five flights expected Friday, will no longer be the sole point of entry for arrivals.

He said some evacuees will now be processed through Philadelphia with tens of thousands more expected to arrive in the coming days. However, Dulles will continue to be the primary airport for evacuees.

US Afghanistan
Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Some refugees have said they have waited 24 hours or more at Dulles to be processed, which includes testing for the coronavirus, for the next step of their journey.

"Since the mission began 11 days ago, less than 20 people have tested positive and those individuals are being quarantined as we speak," Northam said.

Afghanistan Helping Refugees
A car drives past one of the entrances of the U.S. Army base Fort Lee Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Petersburg, Va. Afghan refugees who have been prescreened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been taken to Fort Lee and other temporary reception centers are being set up at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RELATED: US opens mass vaccination site for those arriving from Afghanistan

In terms of how officials are helping those arriving, U.S. citizens and green card holders clear customs and are given assistance if they need it.

The refugees go first to a nearby expo center for processing and then on to Fort Lee in Prince George County.

"The operation is highly efficient, they're safe. It is very respectful of people and it's very good," Northam said.

The governor said that because Fort Lee has capacity for just over 1,700, people, Fort Pickett in Blackstone will get its first group of refugees Saturday while Marine Corps Base Quantico will begin operations Sunday.

"Fort Pickett has a current capacity of 3,800 people," Northam said. "It can be scaled up to house 5,000 and even 10,000."

Afghan Refugees Virginia
A sign as well as a tank mark the entrance to Fort Pickett Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in Blackstone, Va. Afghan refugees who have been prescreened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been taken to Fort Lee as well as Fort Pickett according to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Evacuees are staying at the base for an average of 5 to 7 days at Fort Lee before being more permanently resettled, according to Northam. And about 10% of the evacuees are staying in Virginia.

Northam said charities are helping those people get resettled.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) announced that people or businesses wishing to obtain more information regarding donations for refugees.

Afghan Refugees Virginia
A military truck exits the main gate to Fort Pickett Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in Blackstone, Va. Afghan refugees who have been prescreened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been taken to Fort Lee as well as Fort Pickett according to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

"We are incredibly thankful for the overwhelming support from everyone across the Commonwealth regarding donations for the evacuees arriving in Virginia from Afghanistan. We, also, understand there are questions about what and where to donate cash and/or goods," VDEM said in a news release. "Currently, we are highly recommending financial donations to resettlement organizations and trusted partners. Your financial donation will be used to provide the necessary and needed supplies for the evacuees. Please call 2-1-1 for more information and further guidance."

RELATED: How you can help Afghan refugees evacuated to Fort Lee