The Afghan Refugee Crisis

About the Afghan Refugee Crisis

A Decades-Long Timeline

A bustling town in Afghanistan

This timeline from NPR covers the history of Afghanistan, beginning with the Soviet War and ending with the recent Taliban takeover.

Read A Look At Afghanistan’s 40 Years Of Crisis — From The Soviet War To Taliban Recapture by NPR.

For more detail from the events of 1999 to 2021, read The U.S. War in Afghanistan by the Council on Foreign Relations.

How Women and Children are Affected

While education for girls will be allowed, it will not be without restrictions that make it difficult for them to complete their education. Taliban leaders are claiming that they will guarantee women’s rights “within the limits of Islam”, a statement that inaccurately reflects the spirit of Islam towards women’s rights and girls’ education.

Read The Fragility of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch and this article about girl’s education in Afghanistan by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to learn more.

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.

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.

Refugees raise their hands as part of a pledge
A United States Citizenship ceremony in 2017

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 now temporarily being used to house more than 9,000 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.

And one theme resonated throughout their visit, the Afghan folks at Fort McCoy are guests. Referred to as guests, treated as guests, and provided the hospitality guests receive when invited in.

Joe Minney – Tomah’s Leadership relay takeaways from visit to Fort McCoy

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?

Donate Money

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

Donate Clothing

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization, is accepting donations of new or freshly laundered, gently used clothing for the Afghan allies who arrived at Fort McCoy as part of Operation Allies Welcome.

Clothes should be seasonably appropriate. Drop off donations of new or freshly laundered, culturally appropriate clothing for infants, children, women, and men at the Sparta Armory, located at 602 E Division St, Sparta WI, from 9am to 4pm, seven days a week.

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

Donate Furniture & Goods

As of September 5, 2021: ODFR is not accepting any physical donations at this time due to physical space constraints. If you have goods you would like to donate immediately, we please ask that you please donate to other groups (see below) assisting refugees in WI or donate to other charitable organizations assisting refugees (see below).

If you can hold on to your donations until we accept them, we ask that you email

Other Local Organizations that Accept Physical Donations for Refugees


If you are interested in volunteering with one of our teams, please check our events page to attend an upcoming volunteer informational session and/or fill out our volunteer interest form.

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

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.

Icons made by Good Ware, Cursor Creative, and Darius Dan from