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Utah welcomes its first Afghan refugee after Kabul airlift

Sep 1, 2021, 2:48 PM | Updated: 6:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s first Afghan refugee since the pullout of American forces from Kabul arrived in the state Tuesday night, according to Catholic Community Services of Utah, one of two agencies that work to resettle refugees in Salt Lake City. 

first afghan refugee arrives in utah

Afghan refugee Azim, center, with his case manager, Abakar, left, and Aden Batar, Director of Migration and Refugee Services for Catholic Community Services of Utah, right. Photo provided by CCS

The first Afghan refugee arrives in Utah

Azim, identified as an air traffic controller at the Kabul airport who worked both with the US military and NATO, will likely be the first of potentially many refugees to seek asylum in Utah.

In an interview with KSL TV, Azim said everyone has been very nice to him since arriving Tuesday night. 

“They are very kind, very cool people. They’re very good people. I really appreciate [them],” he said. 

Leaving Afghanistan was a difficult decision, he said. However, he believes the situation there grew out of control. 

“It’s obvious and clear for everybody that chaos and disaster happened,” said Azim. 

After leaving Kabul, Azim spent a few days in Qatar before coming to the U.S. Most of his family is currently in Germany and he hopes to be reunited with them soon. 

In the meantime, there is a Utah family he hopes to meet. Azim wishes to thank the family of Utah Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover who was killed in Kabul last week. 

“I really need to meet his family members here. That’s one of my hope and dream if I can meet them,” Azim explained. 

More refugees are on the way

In a news release, CCS said it expects a few more approved refugees to arrive in the coming weeks. 

Salt Lake City is among 19 cities designated to receive Afghan refugees, according to CCS. 

Roughly 60,000 refugees call Utah home, from countries including Somalia, Iraq, and Burma, among others, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. All go through a rigorous vetting and screening process before resettlement. 

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