'People need to feel safe': Support team to help resettle Afghan evacuees in Falmouth – Cape Cod Times

A group of Afghan evacuees is expected to be resettled in Falmouth, thanks to a newly formed local organization of about 100 volunteers.
The Afghans have been living at a military base in the U.S. after they were evacuated from Afghanistan to escape the the Taliban following the U.S. military withdrawal.
Accommodations for two couples and a family are being prepared in Falmouth, said Marga McElroy, who formed Neighborhood Support Team Cape Cod in early September to help Afghan evacuees. Exactly when they will arrive is not known, she said.
“The primary thing is people need to feel safe, and these people have not felt safe for a long time,” McElroy said. Details about the evacuees and their new homes are not being disclosed due to privacy and security concerns, she said.
The Neighborhood Support Team, a group of Falmouth residents, came together to help just a few of the thousands of Afghans who were evacuated out of their country.
The Falmouth team applied for three housing placements through Ascentria Care Alliance, a human service organization working to resettle 400 Afghans in Massachusetts and others in New Hampshire,  chief community services officer Aimee Mitchell said. 
The process has not been without its difficulties. Due to Trump administration policies, and the impact of COVID-19, refugee resettlement agencies took a major hit, McElroy said. 
“We’re building the airplane while flying,” she said. 
McElroy said the volunteers  are from all walks of life: teachers, techies, lawyers. They will mobilize when the Afghans arrive, to help with necessities like transportation and fundraising.
They will also assist with employment searches, financial literacy and English tutoring, McElroy said. The team is still looking for Dari, Pashto and Farsi translators. 
“We need to rekindle their confidence and empower them to rebuild their lives themselves,” McElroy said. 
Afghan evacuees were brought to U.S. military bases with a temporary “humanitarian parole” status. This initially means they would not be given the same benefits as people defined as “refugees.”  
However, federal legislation passed Sept. 30 granted “humanitarian parolees” refugee benefits, like reception and placement services, health care, food stamps and cash assistance.
As of earlier this month, about 52,000 Afghan evacuees have been living at eight U.S. military installations scattered across America, according to The Associated Press. But that figure was expected to grow as thousands more Afghans overseas are expected to come to the U.S.
In mid-September, the Biden administration announced that about 900 Afghans were expected to be resettled in Massachusetts.
A unique technique that Ascentria uses to relocate refugees is to allow them to pick where they want to live after seeing profiles of neighborhoods and support teams, Mitchell said. 
Many of the evacuees have had traumatic experiences fleeing the Taliban, Mitchell said. Allowing them to choose where they live is an important step to combat that. 
So far, the Falmouth Neighborhood Support Team is the only one on the Cape that is working with Ascentria, though Mitchell said the organization would be open to working with more neighborhood support teams on the Cape. 
One of the challenges with relocating Afghans has been transportation off military bases, Mitchell said. There are over 52,000 Afghans on U.S. soil, and trying to move such large numbers leads to bottlenecks. But she said she expects the number of people taken off the bases for resettlement to increase in the next week or so.
Other challenges have been the lack of funding for resettlement, Mitchell said.
“Many of these organizations have not had infrastructure in place to figure out how to scale up for the level of crisis where we’re at,” she said.
Mitchell said that interpreters who helped the U.S. in Afghanistan previously have had their families targeted due to their service. Agencies are also seeing Afghan mothers and single women who don’t want to return to Taliban rule.
As an example of their grit and desperation, she also spoke about a mother throwing her baby over a fence at Kabul airport.She said the courage for a mother to save her child when she can’t save herself is staggering.
“These folks have endured more than we can even fathom, it’s part of what makes them such spectacular people,” Mitchell said. 
Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.