25,000 Afghan evacuees passed through Philly International Airport

The city of Philadelphia said it took a milestone this week: 25,000 Afghan evacuees passed through Philly International Airport.

This milestone comes two months after the start of Operation Allies Welcome.

“Welcome to Philadelphia, your place is here and we are glad you are here,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

Mayor Kenney joined the airport and other city officials on Friday for an update on the operation, which has slowed to about one flight a day and is expected to end in a few weeks.

They reflected on the dozens of city agencies, nonprofit groups and volunteers who came together within hours to make sure evacuees felt welcome, and to provide in-depth safety screenings. and health care, COVID-19 tests and an option to get vaccinated, among others. services

Philadelphia International Airport was one of two airports selected across the country for the operation. For the second wave of the mission, since the beginning of October, they are the only airport.

Evacuees are taken to one of eight shelters, which are US military bases across the country, and then they begin the resettlement process.

Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania, says this has not been without challenges.

“We don’t get any notice. Under normal circumstances, we get about 10 days notice which we use to line up the accommodations,” she says.

Among the logistical challenges, Miller-Wilson says they had to use their own funding to set up hotel rooms for the Afghan evacuees before moving them to permanent accommodation. Fortunately, she says hotel rooms offer lower rates and Airbnb offers free accommodation.

She says there are psychological challenges as well, including some truly tragic family separations.

In the last week alone, they have worked with a family who arrived without their 2-year-old child and a man who arrived alone without his pregnant wife and three children.

“It’s been really a challenge to try to integrate people when all they want is to be reunited with their families,” said Miller-Wilson.

HIAS Pennsylvania has helped resettle 28 people over the past few weeks and is planning many more in the near future.

They urge Congress to do something for those left behind.

“All we have heard is that there is nothing in Afghanistan, no movement to get people out.”

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