Buffalo prepares to welcome 350 Afghan evacuees

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BUFFALO, NY (September 2, 2021) – The five local organizations which comprise the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium (WNYRAC) – Catholic Charities of Buffalo, International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services – are launching a major collaborative campaign, Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees, to assist the 350 Afghan evacuees who will be settling in Buffalo, later this month, while their cases for asylum are adjudicated.

“We haven’t met these neighbors yet, but they are coming,” said Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo, who noted that the group is also hoping to find temporary housing in perhaps local colleges or universities to help the evacuees to settle here and find jobs and homes.

Three thousand other Afghan Americans have settled in Western New York already, like Milad who came to town in 2015, and now is president of a group called Afghan New Generation. “Today I’m looking for a way to evacuate my uncle, auntie and grandma from Afghanistan. Today my phone is filled with messages with my family and friends who are all worried and living in a life of despair.”

Milad said some of them were studying to be doctors or engineers but would be willing to work just about any trade here. They will each be given about $1,225 from the US State Department, but will not qualify for the same benefits and services that traditional refugees qualify for.

“They are victims that need our help and they are victims that courageously gave of themselves to help the US war effort over the past 20 years,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, (D) of the 26th district, NY. “We have a moral obligation to help them.”

WNYRAC’s campaign goal is to raise $750,000 for the evacuees to cover the cost of living, along with gathering priority in-kind donations and providing housing set-ups with the help of community volunteers. This will ensure that Afghan evacuees have a soft landing in the City of Good Neighbors, while awaiting the outcome of their petitions for permanent resettlement.

Unlike refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders (those who assisted the US military mission) from Afghanistan, the evacuees will not be given access to services and programs funded by the US government. Because of this, WNYRAC is organizing an online and in-person community-based campaign to ensure that their basic needs are met, including housing, health care and nutrition, enrolling children in school, providing financial assistance until work authorization is granted, and more. Advocacy for increasing federal support for evacuees will also be an important component of the campaign.

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY26) said, “The United States government must continue to do everything in its power to give refugee resettlement agencies the resources needed to meet this moment. My hometown and the largest city in my district, Buffalo, NY, is a success story for embracing immigrants and refugees. Our nation needs the assistance of these agencies to help the Afghan evacuees who helped us, and these agencies need the help of the United States government to help us honor our commitment to them.”

For details on specific in-kind needs, volunteer opportunities, advocacy information, and how to donate securely, visit the Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees website: wnyrac.org.

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