Cape Cod Neighborhood Support Team helps Afghan evacuees resettle


A group of Afghan evacuees is expected to be relocated to Falmouth, thanks to a newly formed local organization of about 100 volunteers.

Afghans are living in a military base in the United States after being evacuated from Afghanistan to escape the Taliban following the US military withdrawal.

Housing for two couples and a family is being prepared in Falmouth, said Marga McElroy, who formed the Cape Cod Neighborhood Support Team in early September to help Afghan evacuees. It is not known exactly when they will arrive, she said.

“The main thing is that people need to feel safe, and these people haven’t felt safe for a long time,” McElroy said. Details of the evacuees and their new homes are withheld due to privacy and security concerns, she said.

A need for accountability

The Neighborhood Support Team, a group of residents of Falmouth, came together to help some of the thousands of Afghans who were evacuated from their country.

The Falmouth team applied for three housing placements through the Ascentria Care Alliance, a social service organization that works to relocate 400 Afghans to Massachusetts and others to New Hampshire, Aimee Mitchell said. , responsible for community services.

The process was not without its challenges. Due to the policies of the Trump administration and the impact of COVID-19, refugee resettlement agencies have been hit hard, McElroy said.

“We build the plane while flying,” she said.

McElroy said the volunteers came from all walks of life: teachers, technicians, lawyers. They will mobilize when the Afghans arrive, to help with necessities like transportation and fundraising.

They will also help with job search, financial literacy and English tutoring, McElroy said. The team is always looking for translators in Dari, Pashto and Farsi.

“We need to rekindle their confidence and empower them to rebuild their lives on their own,” McElroy said.

900 Afghans to be resettled in MA

Afghan evacuees were brought to US military bases with temporary “humanitarian parole” status. This initially means that they would not enjoy the same benefits as people defined as “refugees”.

However, federal legislation passed on September 30 provided benefits to refugees “released on humanitarian parole,” such as reception and placement services, health care, food vouchers and cash assistance.

At the start of the month, about 52,000 evacuated Afghans were living in eight US military installations scattered across America, according to the Associated Press. But that number is expected to rise as thousands more Afghans overseas are expected to come to the United States.

In mid-September, the Biden administration announced that approximately 900 Afghans are expected to be resettled in Massachusetts.

One unique technique Ascentria uses to relocate refugees is to allow them to choose where they want to live after seeing profiles of neighborhoods and support teams, Mitchell said.

Many evacuees have had traumatic experiences fleeing the Taliban, Mitchell said. Allowing them to choose where they live is an important step in combating this.

So far, the Falmouth Ward Support Team is the only one in Cape Town to work with Ascentria, although Mitchell has said the organization would be open to working with more Cape Town Support Teams.

One of the challenges of relocating Afghans has been transportation out of military bases, Mitchell said. There are over 52,000 Afghans on American soil, and trying to displace so many leads to bottlenecks. But she said she expects the number of people removed from bases for resettlement to increase over the next week.

Other challenges have been the lack of funding for resettlement, Mitchell said.

“A lot of these organizations haven’t put in place the infrastructure to figure out how to evolve based on the level of crisis we find ourselves in,” she said.

Mitchell said interpreters who have assisted the United States in Afghanistan have already seen their families targeted because of their service. The agencies are also seeing Afghan mothers and single women who do not want to return to the Taliban.

As an example of their courage and desperation, she also spoke of a mother throwing her baby over a fence at Kabul airport. She said the courage for a mother to save her child when she cannot save herself is staggering.

“These people have endured more than we can even imagine, that’s part of what makes them so spectacular,” Mitchell said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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