Open Doors Response to the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis

View our Afghanistan Crisis Resources page for the latest information and advice.

Afghan refugees standing at the Kabul airport
Photo credit: Jim Huylebroek for the NY Times

In Short:

  • Thousands of Afghan refugees have arrived in the U.S. already and many thousands more will in the days ahead.  Many of those are and will be at Fort McCoy nearby.
  • Although we anticipate that some of the Afghan refugees will arrive in Madison at some point, none have yet.  We don’t know how many or when they will arrive.
  • The Madison community has strongly responded to the Afghan crisis and reached out to Open Doors with more than 200 offers of volunteers, furniture and housewares, so much so that we can’t store, process or accommodate any more at this time.  With much, much gratitude, we ask that you please hold off on your offers for now.
  • We are working to determine the best way for us to financially support Afghan refugees.  If you would like to contribute, you can make a donation to us through the Center for Community Stewardship (our Fiscal Sponsor), and please write “Afghan Refugees” in the note field. 
  • In conjunction with Jewish Social Services of Madison, we have been and will continue to settle many non-Afghan refugees from other parts of the world.

Background and Response

Information about the situation in Afghanistan and the refugees fleeing there has been inconsistent and often contradictory, but consistently bleak.  Our hearts go out to the Afghan people, to those who have gotten out, to those who can’t get out, and to the many Afghans, locally and elsewhere, who are desperately worried about their families.  We want to share with you what we understand, know, and anticipate.

To date, something on the order of 1,000,000 Afghans have fled the country, and many more than that have wanted but been unable to.  Most of those who’ve been evacuated have been taken to overseas locations, and some of those on to the U.S.  By this weekend, an estimated 22,000 will have arrived in the U.S., mostly in Virginia’s Fort Lee, Texas’s Fort Bliss, and Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy.  Of these, a few thousand are in Fort McCoy, and perhaps 10,000 may ultimately be housed there temporarily.

All of those who’ve arrived will need to be vetted before they can be (re)settled.  Their vetting status, and the amount of time it will take to complete vetting, varies considerably.  Some may have been minimally vetted before they were evacuated and completing the vetting process will take many months.  Others were nearly vetted before, and the remaining vetting process will be relatively short.  Many worked with the U.S. forces (like many of the Afghans already here), will qualify for Special Immigrant Visas, and their vetting process will likewise also be relatively short.

Once someone has been vetted, if they already have family in the U.S., they will likely be resettled with their families.  Otherwise, they will be resettled at one of the many refugee resettlement agencies around the county.  Jewish Social Services of Madison is one of those agencies.  JSS is the official resettlement agency, and Open Doors works closely with JSS to resettle refugees and help them make a home here.  We haven’t had any new Afghan refugee arrivals yet and we may not for a while.  Though we don’t know when or how many Afghan refugees will or may be resettled in Madison, we expect that we’ll begin to see some Afghan refugee arrivals before very long.  Madison also has a well-established Afghan community, and some new arrivals may come as family ties.

In the meantime, Open Doors and JSS continue to resettle refugees largely from other parts of the world.  Since late-May (the effective end of the Trump era and COVID embargo), we have furnished apartments for another eight families, the last being our 54th since we started in 2016.  However, in the bleak months of Trump and COVID, many of our volunteers have moved on, and even keeping up with the non-Afghan arrivals has been challenging. 

With that recognition, and the anticipation of Afghan arrivals, we asked for help and the community delivered.  We have been overwhelmed with offers of volunteers, furniture, and housewares, so much so that we can’t store, process, or accommodate any more at this time.  With grateful hearts, we ask you to please hold on to your offers for the time being.  We will have room for and need of them in the months ahead, with or without the Afghan arrivals. 

Many people have also contributed financially.  We are working with members of the local Afghan community and others to determine the best way we can financially support the resettlement of Afghan refugees.  If you would like to contribute to this cause, you can make a donation to us through the Center for Community Stewardship (our Fiscal Sponsor through which we have nonprofit status), and please write something like “Afghan Refugees” on the note field.  All such donations will be used to support this community.

You can always follow us on Facebook and our website, and you can see our past newsletters, or sign up to get them, here. Thank you for sharing our compassion, concern, and action for and on behalf of Afghans and all refugees fleeing from horrible conditions.