Loudoun Co. officials address concerns over safe haven center for Afghan evacuees

The first group of Afghan evacuees arrived this week at the National Conference Center in the community of Lansdowne near Leesburg, Virginia, as part of Operation Allies Welcome.

On Thursday, Loudoun County officials addressed residents’ questions and concerns about the safe haven site during a Facebook question-and-answer session.

Around 1,000 asylum-seekers could be processed through the National Conference Center (NCC) each month. In response to a question about the vetting process for the evacuees who will be housed at NCC, Michael Turner of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors said they have gone through a months-long, multi-layered, extensive screening process oversees before coming to Virginia.

“They are interpreters, they are judges, they are reporters,” said Turner. “They are female teachers who are under threat from the Taliban.”

Turner said evacuees would only be staying for two to four weeks before being resettled elsewhere in the county.

Asked about opportunities to volunteer or donate goods, Turner said residents should email him directly at Mike.Turner@Loudoun.gov and he would forward their offers to a special FEMA representative who is coordinating volunteer requests.

He also said U.S. military veterans who live in the county and are trying to find Afghans who aided them should contact him as well.

Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said she understands residents’ frustrations that they were only informed about the safe haven shortly before it began operating.

“The truth is the community … was not part of the decision-making. It really was a contract between the federal government and the NCC Center,” Randall said.

She said a representative from the NCC has since met with homeowner associations in the community to brief them on security measures being taken at the center. She also said Loudoun County Public Schools has been working with the Department of Homeland Security and the NCC to coordinate logistics and traffic at all times.

The National Conference Center is located near Riverside High School.

The federal operation at NCC is expected to end by September 2022.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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