Nearly 1,000 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Philly as withdrawal deadline looms Tuesday
A total of 883 evacuees from Afghanistan arrived at Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday and Sunday, and nine planes carrying hundreds more were expected on Monday, city officials said.
That would represent a dozen flights to land here so far as part of Operation Allies Refuge, the US military operation to airlift people out of the country.
Shortly before 5 p.m., confirmation that the last military flight had taken off from Kabul airport, meeting Tuesday’s deadline set by President Joe Biden to end the 20-year war.
Military flights were leaving the besieged capital at a rate of more than an hour on Monday, helping to drive departures that have seen around 116,700 people evacuated in the past two weeks or so.
Those arriving in Philadelphia – who may be Afghan nationals, U.S. citizens, or hold one of various legal statuses – are greeted by staff from city, state, and federal agencies, as well as local hospitals and charitable organizations. non-profit. The city has turned a closed A-East terminal into a transit and processing area, used after new arrivals have left planes and cleared customs.
“I’m very happy with the level of coordination,” Mayor Jim Kenney said on Sunday. “We expect this operation to accelerate in the coming days.”
The city provides familiar and culturally appropriate food, diapers, hygiene products and other supplies, as well as books and soft toys for children. Everyone gets a medical evaluation that includes COVID-19 testing. Newcomers can be vaccinated against the virus if they wish.
The city also offers on-site interpretation in Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Farsi, and has set up a space for prayer and religious observance. Muslims in Virginia sent an urgent request Monday for 800 copies of the Koran and 800 prayer rugs for newly arrived Afghans stationed in Quantico.
City officials say they need volunteer translators. Those in a position to help should first register with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps, which serves at large-scale events. To join, visit the SERVPA website and select “Medical Reserve Corps organizations” from the drop-down menu, then choose “Philadelphia MRC” from the secondary menu.
The best way to support relief efforts, city officials said, is to donate money to approved groups. The municipal office of immigration affairs works with the Nationalities Services Center and HIAS Pennsylvania.
People can also donate goods and services to the organizations included here.
Many evacuees are taken to the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Joint Base in southern Jersey, which is preparing to shelter thousands of people. A respite site on the Camden waterfront has so far not been used, on hold in case the arrival crowds overflow at the airport.
Many or most of those taken to the New Jersey base will be relocated to communities across the United States.
About 156,000 Afghans live in the country, half of them for less than five years. California has the largest Afghan population with approximately 54,000, followed by Virginia with 24,500 and Texas with 10,400.
About 700 Afghans live in Philadelphia, clustered in Mayfair and Oxford Circle in the northeast.