Displaced Afghans Flee To Kabul As Taliban Make Gains In Northern Provinces

Displaced Afghans reach out for aid from a local Muslim organization at a makeshift IDP camp on August 10, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban has taken control of the country since the United States accelerated withdrawal of its forces this year.

The federal government has notified Arizona that it should expect 1,610 Afghan evacuees to arrive through the end of March, according to the state Department of Economic Security. 

DES administers the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, which partners with the federal government to service refugees as they adjust to making Arizona their new home. The people expected to arrive from Afghanistan, though, won’t arrive through the refugee resettlement process. Instead, they’ll be part of a temporary humanitarian parole program called the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program, said Tasya Peterson, a DES spokeswoman. 

According to a Department of Homeland Security document, the U.S. government will grant entry into the country to thousands Afghan evacuees on a case-by-case basis through a humanitarian parole program. They’ll be allowed to live in the country for about two years. 

In August, as the U.S. government ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan and withdrew its troops, Taliban forces quickly took over Kabul, the capital city. A crisis unfolded resulting in emergency evacuations where U.S. forces airlifted an estimated 116,700 civilians out of the country, according to USA Today. Among those evacuated were people in the process of requesting entry into the U.S. through the Special Immigrant Visa program, a program available to translators and interpreters who worked for U.S. troops or other Afghans who worked for the U.S. government or U.S.-based companies, such as journalists. 

But it’s still unclear if those who will arrive under the humanitarian parole program will have access to the resources that refugees have through the resettlement process, such as a work permit, cash assistance, and help with case management, housing and finding a school for their children.  

Arizona community groups that are readying resources to welcome Afghan evacuees are concerned about this lack of clarity on whether federal funds will or will not be available means that nonprofits and private organizations will have to provide that assistance to the new arrivals from Afghanistan. 

Neijra Sumic, a refugee advocate and leader of We Are All America, said housing, language interpretation, and case management are the biggest needs among the groups preparing to welcome Afghan evacuees. 

“We’ve just been working as quickly as possible to organize a rapid response,” Sumic said. 

Last week, leaders in the Afghan community in Phoenix and Tucson met with groups that assist refugees to come together to address the needs, she said.

“We have had private organizations having to step up to provide additional services,” Sumic said. “The resettlement agencies do have some capacities to house, but they definitely need additional support from the community, faith-based organizations, and private organizations to be able to support the number of individuals coming in.”

In August, Gov. Doug Ducey and Rep. Rusty Bowers, the Republican leader of the state House of Representatives, issued a joint statement of welcome to those who were evacuated from Afghanistan. 

“As refugees come and find homes in states across the nation, we welcome them to our state full of opportunity and choice, and we’re working closely with federal and state officials to offer them safety in Arizona,” the joint statement said. 

The first group of evacuees arrived in Phoenix on Aug. 29. Another group has since arrived in Tucson, said Sumic. 

CJ Karamargin, a spokesman for Ducey, said the state will consider providing funding and resources to support the Afghan evacuees arriving in Arizona if needed. 

“Arizona has a long and proud tradition of welcoming people from all over the country and the world,” Karamagin said. “With this particular group … it is heartbreaking what they’ve been through but as the governor said we are willing to accept our fair share and once the vetting is done, the security clearances are completed. We are going to do our part.” 

How to help

DES is compiling a volunteer interest form that people who want to help in by providing temporary housing, interpretation or translation, transportation, donations or places to pick up or drop off donations can fill out and submit. 

The Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and International Rescue Committee — all resettlement agencies that partner with the federal government to welcome and assist refugees who’ll be making Arizona their new home — have an Amazon wish list for donation. Here’s the IRC’s listLSS’ list, and Catholic Charities’ list on Amazon.

The Somali American United Council is focused on helping current Arizona residents who have families in Afghanistan who are looking to get support on how to get their families out of their native country. The group is working with immigration attorneys and congressional representatives knowledgeable on the processes available for people from Afghanistan living in the U.S. seeking to reunite with their families.

Catholic Charities also operates a foster care program for children and teens who are seeking asylum or are refugees. There could be a need to provide homes to Afghan minors, but families interested in fostering this population have to be licensed through the state, a process that takes about five to six months, said Joanne Morales, with the Catholic Charities refugee program.

The Refugee and Immigrant Service Provider Network — a coalition of more than 150 public and private groups and individuals who serve refugees in Arizona — also has a website (www.rispnet.com) that compiles resources and ways to help new Afghan arrivals.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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