Officials quash rumors about conditions at Camp Atterbury

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The first Afghan refugees arrive in Indiana. They were transported to Camp Atterbury in southern Johnson County, where they will stay before resettling elsewhere in the United States.

Federal officials on Wednesday clarified recent misinformation about conditions and misconstrued statistics regarding the refugees being temporarily housed at Camp Atterbury.

Following a visit to the southern Johnson County base, U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., told a cable news station that “only 25 (of the refugees) had actual documents.”

That is not accurate, said Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration and Operation Allies Welcome.

The vast majority — about 76% — have presented some form of identification or documentation demonstrating their identity, Dankers said in a statement.

“It is important to note more than 22% of our guests are age 9 and younger, suggesting that many of those may not have a government-issued ID,” she said.

Another rumor propagated by an area radio talk show suggested that the 25 refugees who have been released from Camp Atterbury were Taliban operatives who were sent back to Afghanistan.

“There are individuals who have departed Camp Atterbury due to eligibility or completion of on-site processing. Some individuals have decided to continue the resettlement process outside of Camp Atterbury. Intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals conduct screening and security vetting before the Afghan guests are allowed into the United States. This includes reviews of both biographic and biometric data,” Dankers said in the statement.

Refugees are individuals who aided the United States mission in Afghanistan and who would be at risk for retaliation by the Taliban and ISIS-K if they stayed in or returned to their home country.

Officials also said rumors that conditions are squalid and refugees are displaying violent behavior are untrue.

Conditions at the base are safe and as comfortable as an army barracks can be. All of the roughly 6,600 refugees have a bed and, thanks to the generosity of countless Hoosiers, are getting necessities such as clothing to ease their transition to the United States.

So far, more than 317,000 items have been donated to the refugees through Team Rubicon and the American Red Cross. At the base, supplies are being distributed to the refugees from the aid partners with help from volunteers with the aid organizations.

With the change of seasons, the aid partners are now asking for fall and winter clothes and shoes for all ages, according to an Operation Allies Welcome news release. Other new items to consider donating include baby formula, diapers, coloring books, crayons and toys, the news release says.

Leeann Doerflein is a reporter for the Daily Journal in Johnson County.