The city of St. Louis, Missouri, hopes to increase its population by attracting Afghan refugees to settle in the city to make up for its 70 years of population loss.
The Associated Press reported that there is an “aggressive effort” in the city to attract large swaths of the more than 76,000 Afghans who fled their country after its capital, Kabul, was handed over to the Taliban.
Currently, the city is home to around 600 Afghan refugees with another 750 expected to arrive later this year.
The Associated Press reported that various city and community leaders “hope that over the next few years thousands more will decide to move” to St. Louis and “compensate for seven decades of lost population.”
Reportedly, city officials see courting Afghan refugees as crucial to starting a process of urban rejuvenation similar to how the arrival of Bosnian refugees spurred a similar process in the 1990s.
In the 1990s, St. Louis was the most popular destination for Bosnians displaced by war in the former Balkan nation of Yugoslavia. Of the estimated 300,000 Bosnian refugees who sought to enter the United States, approximately 40,000 now call Grand St. Louis region their home.
The St. Louis Afghan Resettlement Initiative is supported by over $1 million in donations and has over 800 volunteers at its disposal. The initiative is supported by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, the International Institute of St. Louis, and other nonprofit groups in the city.
Apparently, advocates of the refugee resettlement initiative met with no opposition.
Jerry Schlichter, a lawyer who is the program’s organizer and main funder, said the initiative will help Afghan refugees find housing and jobs, connect newly arrived refugees with career development resources such as courses in computer coding and will provide them with grants. for business start-ups.
Schlichter said, “There is a mutual need. We have stagnated. With this unique opportunity with Afghan refugees ending up somewhere in this country, we should take advantage of it.
Arrey Obenson, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, said he was confident the new refugees would revitalize neighborhoods in the city.
“The reality of the situation we face is that if we look at the city of St. Louis and the rate of population decline, we have to find a way to bring people into the community to reverse the trend,” Obenson said.