Afghanistan Evacuations and Refugees

As we watch the news about the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the evacuation of U.S. troops and other government personnel, our minds are racing to think of all that is needed in such a time of humanitarian crisis. Our hearts go out to those who are trying to flee and those with no place to go. In the short term, the priority will be to find a safe place. For many Afghans, that will mean trying to leave the country. Not all will want to come to the U.S. Many will want to stay in a nearby country so that it is easier to go home in the future. Others will also want to go to a country where the language and customs are familiar or where they have family and friends. Some will want to come to the U.S.

Flights to the U.S. began a few weeks ago to evacuate Afghans who have been working with the U.S. Government and their families. We will need every tool in our immigration/refugee processing toolkit to respond in a timely manner to those whose lives are at risk – as parolees, as visa holders and, eventually, as refugees. The U.S. Government has already been working with nine U.S.-based NGOs to receive these allies, resettling them to places in the country where the majority already have contacts.

Watch this video to learn how SIV program works and need for evacuation flights.

What is the PC(USA) doing and how can you help?

  • Urge the U.S. Government to initiate a robust humanitarian response.

National, state and local non-profit organizations, including churches, Presbyteries, Synods, are asked to sign on to this letter to President Biden. This includes evacuating allies to a U.S. territory for processing, international aid for humanitarian response, Temporary Protected Status for Afghans in the U.S. and halting all deportations of Afghans from the U.S.

  • Support the international Humanitarian Response

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and international humanitarian organizations have been doing contingency planning ever since President Biden announced the intent to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Before this week, Afghan refugees were already considered one of the largest protracted refugee situations in the world. There were almost 1.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and close to a million in Iran at the end of July. And more than 400,000 Afghans were displaced within the country before the events of this week. 

PDA has already received an alert from ACT Alliance, a worldwide network of Protestant and Orthodox churches, of which PCUSA is a member.  ACT members in Afghanistan, some with more than thirty years of humanitarian service are working with local communities, local and regional authorities to respond to the growing needs.  PDA will provide financial aid to ACT members for their work inside Afghanistan even as we monitor developments in the neighboring countries to support other ACT partners as the needs are identified and programs are expanded.

Support PC(USA) partners through the PDA U.S. Refugee Emergency Fund.

  • Welcome Afghans coming to the U .S.

In the first 8 months of the Fiscal Year (October 2020-July 2021), four thousand Afghans have arrived in the U.S., resettled in 32 different states. California is the largest destination. Congress has approved funding to receive thousands more in the months ahead. They need basic furniture and supplies to set up apartments, rental housing, financial support and volunteers. Encourage your local community leaders, elected officials and the U.S. Government to work together to welcome these newcomers and to provide the services that support their integration.  #SaveOurAllies.

PDA has general information on how refugee resettlement works and how churches welcome refugees here.

Because people are moving quickly, local resettlement offices are franticly trying to meet the immediate needs of those who are arriving. Church World Service will be handling inquiries by national staff through

If you want to find out if there is a local program near you, click here

  • Get Educated and Prepared

Register for the Church World Service “Lunch & Learn” Webinar – Looking Ahead to 2022 – Resettlement Update on August 30, 2021 at 12 Noon Eastern. Mia Witte, Director for Resettlement at CWS will explain how the U.S. is preparing to resettle more refugees and people with Special Immigrant Visas in the year ahead. This session will review where refugees will be coming from, which communities throughout the country they may be resettled in, and how community members can become involved to support them. 

Mark your calendars now to attend the online conference: “Together We Welcome: A National Faith Gathering to Strengthen Support for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants” which will take place Nov. 7-11, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Registration will begin by September.

For the longer term, the U.S. Government is setting up a process for more Afghans to come to the U.S. It is not yet clear where this processing will take place.  The priority will be for people who worked for the U.S. Government or International Security, for an organization funded by the U.S. Government (such as an NGO) or for public media. Individuals who qualify will need to be referred by the U.S. Government or other employer. They will not be able to apply directly. CWS and the eight other national organizations are all expanding their networks to rebuild and restore the U.S. resettlement program. Afghans who enter as parolees or with Special Immigrant Visas are eligible for these services, even if they don’t arrive through a charter flight.

  • Pray for Afghanistan, the Afghan people and for all who are in harm’s way

    • Pray that a peaceful resolution may be found that protects the dignity of all Afghans
    • Pray for the U.S. Government that it will work diligently to ensure the safety of its citizens and allies as they continue to depart from Afghanistan
    • Pray for the governments of Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and other neighboring countries that they will not turn Afghan refugees away.
    • Pray for our state and local governments that they will join with the U.S. Government in creating places of welcome.
    • Pray for our churches and ourselves, that our hearts may be open and our hands and feet ready to meet the needs of the Afghans who are already arriving and will need our solidarity and compassion as they seek to rebuild their lives in the U.S.

The Amiri family, recent refugees from Afghanistan, shown on the playground with members of Second Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The church co-sponsored the family with Kentucky Refugee Ministries for their first months in the United States. (Photo by Rich Copley) Read the full story here.

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