TFC News

Northwest Florida to shelter Afghan refugees

Paul Garilao | TFC News Pensacola, Florida

Posted at Aug 23 2021 05:49 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2021 02:15 PM

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Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been desperately fleeing their country since the Taliban took full control of it. Many fear for their lives, worried that the militant group could carry out revenge attacks against those Afghans who worked with the U.S. government.

Now, they're seeking resettlement in countries like the United States. Resettlement organizations have already been helping families looking to start over in America. Refugee service-based organizations like the Lutheran Social service are planning to relocate Afghan refugees to Jacksonville, Florida. "They have welcomed refugees in Jacksonville for many years. They are helping resettle the current influx of Afghan refugees in Florida. This is part of their mission and I support them," immigration author Lia Ocampo said.

Ocampo, who wrote a book about Fil-Am immigrants in the U.S., calls the situation a humanitarian concern. "I don’t have the right to say that Afghan allies and refugees should not be resettled in Florida or anywhere else in the U.S. They are people like you and me who need humanitarian assistance," she said. "I could relate with the Afghan allies. I understand their situation, plea, and need to leave Afghanistan to create new lives for their families in this country."

Another organization, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, has been looking for houses in Pensacola for possible placement of Afghan refugees. But some Fil-Ams oppose the move. "Yung mga Americans na nandoon, kailangan yun muna ang iuwi dito bago papuntahin yung mga refugees (The Americans there should be taken home first before the refugees are brought here)," Pensacola resident Gladys Bascos argued.

For U.S. veteran Abner Manimtim, the placement of refugees is another burden for the local government and private sector who are already dealing with a growing number of homeless people in Northwest Florida. "Those homeless people will be supported by the government. Those people that they are trying to bring from Afghanistan, they will be depending on the government also for their needs," Manimtim pointed out.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. has evacuated about 13,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14. Among them are translators and interpreters who have helped the U.S. military in Afghanistan, and they are eligible for special immigrant visas. The U.S. government will send 1,000 personnel to Qatar to accelerate the processing of applications for these visas.