Hundreds of Afghan Evacuees Arrive in Philadelphia

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
August 30, 2021 Updated: August 30, 2021

Philadelphia International Airport has been transformed into a welcome center For Afghan evacuees, processing hundreds of men, women, and children fleeing the country as U.S. troops leave.

The city of Philadelphia is providing updates on the effort, dubbed “Operation Allies Refuge PHL.”

On Saturday, the city reported 505 total evacuees came through the airport on two aircraft.

On Sunday, several hundred more evacuees were expected on three aircraft. An update on the exact number is expected Monday.

Upon arrival, refugees enter terminal A-East where they find representatives from city, state, and federal agencies, as well as local hospitals and non-profit agencies, who provide immediate services after they deplane and are cleared by customs.

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Scenes from the Philadelphia International Airport as Afghan evacuees enter. (City of Philadelphia)

These include culturally appropriate food and comfort items like stuffed animals, diapers, and hygiene products.

They receive a general medical evaluation that includes a required COVID-19 test, physical and mental health support services, and the opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Refugees are then escorted to retrieve luggage and be transported to their next destination.

The city of Philadelphia is providing on-site interpretation in Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Farsi, and has a space in baggage claim for reflection, meditation, prayer, and religious observance.

“I’m very pleased with the high level of coordination occurring at PHL Airport to best welcome Afghan evacuees into our country,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. “I thank all of the City departments involved as well as state and federal agencies, local hospitals, non-profit partners, and volunteers who have stepped up to aid our Afghan brothers and sisters during this critical time. We anticipate this operation picking up speed in the coming days and appreciate the public’s support by way of volunteering and donating in the recommended ways.”

Many refugees arriving in Philadelphia through this operation do not speak English. To communicate with them, the city is asking for help from volunteers who can interpret in Dari, Pashto, Urdu, or Farsi.

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Scenes from the Philadelphia International Airport as Afghan evacuees enter. (City of Philadelphia)

All volunteers who can provide interpretation services are required first to sign up as members of the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC is a group of more than 2,500 volunteers who serve the city during public health emergencies and large-scale events.

To sign up, visit the SERVPA website and select “Medical Reserve Corps Organizations” from the drop-down menu and then select “Philadelphia MRC” from the secondary menu. The MRC is actively reviewing applications and will be in touch as soon as possible.

The best way to support relief organizations is through monetary donations to vetted groups that are providing immediate and long-term aid, the city said in a press release. In Philadelphia, the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is working with the Nationalities Services Center and HIAS Pennsylvania.

If you wish to donate material goods, the United States Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey has created a list of goods and materials to donate directly to incoming refugees. HIAS Pennsylvania is also accepting in-kind donations.

Donations are not being accepted at the Philadelphia International Airport at this time.

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: