As planeloads of Afghan refugees begin arriving in the United States, pressure to manage the resettlement effort will need to focus on the most basic of human needs, according to Virginia Tech’s Katrina Powell.

“People who have been resettled far from home have urgent needs such as a place to live, medical care, household items, transportation, clothing, and food,” she said. “People who have been resettled are like anyone else—they want their children to be safe, healthy, and educated. They want to work and provide for their families.”

Powell is the founding director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant and Displacement Studies at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on displacement narratives and the ethical dimensions of archiving those narratives in alternatives spaces.

“Anyone resettled wants to feel welcome and secure but they also want to contribute. We know from research that many refugees and migrants become community members who contribute to their communities in a variety of ways,” said Powell.


“Once refugees arrive in the U.S., however, their journey is not over. The Office of Refugee Resettlement works closely with approved resettlement agencies within states, providing for immediate needs. In Virginia, for instance, approved resettlement agencies such as the International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Social Services, and Commonwealth Catholic Charities, offer assistance during the first few months as they transition to a new life.”

“While resettlement efforts in this country are inspiring and highlight the best of the ways that Americans, some of whom are former refugees themselves, feel a deep responsibility to serve, interdisciplinary research is needed to address the structural issues that cause displacement in the first place. At the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies at Virginia Tech, we produce, support, and disseminate interdisciplinary research about displacement.”

“One can help in a number of ways, including: giving, volunteering, learning. National organizations working with refugees accept cash donations that are used to help with immediate needs. Anyone can volunteer with local organizations such as the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership and the Roanoke Refugee Partnership. Learning involves reaching out to help deepen our understanding of these very complex issues.”

About Katrina Powell

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