The Afghan Refugee Crisis
About the Afghan Refugee Crisis
A Decades-Long Timeline
This timeline from NPR covers the history of Afghanistan, beginning with the Soviet War and ending with the recent Taliban takeover.
For more detail from the events of 1999 to 2021, read The U.S. War in Afghanistan by the Council on Foreign Relations.
And now, history repeats itself. Despite the Taliban’s claims that they’ve become more moderate, their recent actions do not reflect this. They have already taken violent measures to once again push their extremist ideology.
How Vulnerable Groups are Affected
Taliban leaders claimed they would guarantee women’s rights “within the limits of Islam”, a statement that inaccurately reflected the spirit of Islam towards women’s rights and girls’ education. Since then, the Taliban have heavily restricted women’s access to education, forced them to stay in their homes, removed them from government positions, restricted their rights to protest, and banned them from sports.
The Afghan LGBTQ+ community has been forced to go into hiding as their lives and rights are in grave danger.
Read The Fragility of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch and this article about the LGBTQ+ community in Afghanistan by The Guardian to learn more about these issues.
Who Are the Afghan Refugees in Wisconsin?
Since 2002, Wisconsin has taken in over 14,000 refugees, a middling amount when compared to other states. There have been historically low numbers of Afghan refugees settled in Wisconsin – only 121 as of 2016. This is of course rapidly changing, with about 900 expected from the current crisis.
Afghan refugees, like all newcomer refugees to Wisconsin, must go through dizzying amounts of processing, security clearance, and medical examinations in order to enter.
Read Wiscontext’s Refugee Resettlement In Wisconsin, By The Numbers for an in-depth look at how Wisconsin works with the US federal government and the United Nations to coordinate these processes.
How have some of these refugees made it to the United States?
Fort McCoy of Monroe County, near Tomah, Wisconsin is taking in refugees from Afghanistan that have ongoing visa applications or who already have visas or citizenship.
Afghans will need at minimum a visa in order to enter US territory beyond Fort McCoy. Here are two of the more common kinds related to this crisis:
Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
This is a special visa awarded to Afghans who served in Afghanistan for the US government or International Security Assistance Force for at least one or two years.
Applicants for this Visa must also be in danger because of the services that they have provided in order to qualify.
On July 30th 2021, the US government authorized an additional 8,000 visas to help account for the expected influx of refugees.
More information can be found at this Travel.State.Gov page.
Humanitarian Parole Visa
This visa does not come with government benefits that some other refugee visas provide, but is available to a wider audience. Humanitarian Parole will require the following from an applicant:
- The same documentation that any immigrant moving to the US would have to have and additional documentation for this specific visa.
- Their family must show that they will have available at least $15,000 either on themselves or from other family members within the US.
- At least $570 in application fees per person, and additional fees and expenses as they move through the process.
More details can be found at this USCIS page.
What is Happening in Fort McCoy?
Fort McCoy is a US Army owned training center that specializes in supporting all US military branches for infrastructure, training, and equipment.
It is temporarily being used to house about 13,000 Afghan refugees.
Here is the process that they go through once they make it there:
- Medical Safety – All refugees go through tests for various sicknesses and are each given the Covid-19 vaccine (among other vaccines).
- Biometric Screening – Each refugee is photographed and records their fingerprints with the government.
- Supplies – In large part thanks to the kindness of those donating, Afghan refugees are given culturally appropriate food, clothing, toys, and other various items to suit their basic needs.
- Shelter – Refugees in Fort McCoy are given temporary housing if they do not have a place to stay in the US or enough money for rent.
- Religious Services – Citizens and refugees alike share the right to practice their religions in the US.
- Transportation – Many refugees have family already in the US and are given rides to return to them.
The Red Cross, National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and other organizations are assisting in these efforts.
Eventually, some will become naturalized US citizens. Others will remain with a visa or travel to another country, in some cases back to Afghanistan.
See the Fort McCoy Facebook page for more information and ways to help.
How Can I Help Afghan Refugees in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has an excellent help guide.
The biggest way to help is to donate directly to local groups assisting various refugee communities in Wisconsin, including recently arrived Afghans. Donate to ODFR to directly support our skill-building program and Home Supply program for refugees.
Other Local Organizations that Accept Financial Donations for Refugees
Winter clothes are in demand! Drop off donations of new culturally appropriate clothing for infants, children, women, and men at the Salvation Army of Dane County, located at 3030 Darbo Drive, Madison, WI 53714, from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
For detail on what is needed and accepted, check out Team Rubicon’s Support and Needs sheet.
Please note that the Fort McCoy Visitor Control Center is currently not able to accept donations. For more info, email Team Rubicon at email@example.com.
Other Local Organizations that Accept Clothing Donations for Refugees
Donate Furniture & Goods
Open Doors furnishes apartments for new refugee families with donated furniture, appliances, and household items.
This is a crucial and initial part of helping welcome them into a safe, warm, and inviting home as they start new lives here in Madison.
Other Local Organizations that Accept Physical Donations for Refugees
As of September 5, 2021: ODFR’s Volunteer Coordinator is responding to hundreds of volunteer inquiries at this time. We ask for your patience at this time.
Hire a Refugee
Are you a business owner and looking to hire?
If you have a potential employment opportunity for a refugee, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, over 600,000 people have lost their homes within the borders of Afghanistan alone. Those who make it beyond the borders of Afghanistan to Wisconsin, to other states, and to other countries are but a very small percentage of those who are victims of war, ongoing conflict, and disruption of services like education and health care. Read Afghanistan Emergency by UNHCR to understand a larger, global view of the crisis.
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