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Afghan Refugees Arriving Through Philadelphia International Airport

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Monday, August 30, 2021   

PHILADELPHIA - Several hundred refugees from Afghanistan started to arrive at Philadelphia International Airport this weekend, only a few days after an explosion at the airport in Kabul resulted in the death of at least 170 people along with 13 U.S. service members.

It became the second airport in the country - after Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC - to welcome Afghan refugees after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

Cathryn Miller-Wilson - executive director of refugee resettlement organization HIAS Pennsylvania - said under normal circumstances, they receive between 10 days and two weeks notice from their national organization about upcoming refugee arrivals in the region.

"What has happened because of the crisis is about two weeks ago," said Miller-Wilson, "we started getting emails from our national saying, 'Hey, be prepared we're going to be sending you emails with just a few hours notice of people who are cleared to be resettled.'"

Afghan evacuees who don't have green card status or citizenship could end up at nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The military base joins six others in the country housing refugees and has the capacity to hold 9,500 people.

After their arrival, Miller-Wilson said HIAS PA has 90 days to help them find housing, open a bank account, secure a job, and much more. HIAS PA is asking for monetary donations to help pay for hotel rooms and other temporary housing.

Miller-Wilson says they're also in need of volunteers.

"We are looking for volunteers for various aspects of resettlement," said Miller-Wilson, "things like going to the airport to pick them up, doing a housing setup, where we set up their new apartment with all the furniture, accompanying clients to their first medical appointment."

City officials have also put out a request for interpreters who speak Dari, Pashto, Urdu, or Farsi to join the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps, a group of more than 2,500 volunteers who assist during public health emergencies and large-scale events.




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