FOX VALLEY – Six families evacuating from Afghanistan have relocated to the Fox Valley area, and many more are expected to arrive in the coming months.
The six families all arrived within the last three weeks, said World Relief Fox Valley Director Tami McLaughlin. The families include a total of 21 people, McLaughlin said, the start of up to 200, which World Relief Fox Valley is poised to welcome to the area. Several families are scheduled to arrive before Thanksgiving.
World Relief Fox Valley, a local subsidiary of the national relocation agency World Relief, is leading the resettlement effort for Afghan evacuees to the Appleton and Oshkosh areas.
By September, World Relief Fox Valley had originally prepared to receive up to 100 Afghan evacuees. After finding that a higher number of people than expected had evacuated Afghanistan and sought refuge, the agency reassessed the capacity of Fox Valley and doubled it to 200 people.
Although there is no exact timeline in place, McLaughlin said the 200 evacuees could arrive in the area by spring 2022 or sooner.
“We keep all information loose because it seems to be changing,” McLaughlin said.
The resettlement process
Resettlement of evacuees is a multi-step process. Due to the urgent nature of the mass evacuation from Afghanistan, individuals and families wishing to resettle in the United States travel into the country under the government designation as “humanitarian probationers” instead of refugees.
“It’s a government designation that determines what benefits and what processes they have to go through to eventually become permanent residents and citizens,” McLaughlin said.
Families and individuals fleeing Afghanistan seeking refuge in the United States must go through a process that includes being screened and interviewed in locations outside the United States called “lily protectors” before being placed in one of eight U.S. military bases. .
After arriving at a U.S. military base, additional treatment measures must take place before evacuees can move to new homes, McLaughlin said.
Once treatment is completed, refugees are resettled in a new community through World Relief or one of the eight other national refugee resettlement agencies.
One of World Relief’s tasks is to develop a network of landlords willing to work with the agency to accept tenants who have no credit history, work history or references, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said World Relief does not ask landlords for financial benefits, but flexibility with a rental process for individuals who usually do not have the history required to be accepted as a tenant.
World Relief offers a few months of help to support refugee families on their path to becoming self-sufficient in their new community.
“We have an established Afghan community in Appleton, a small community that we welcomed over four years ago and they are doing very well,” she said. “Many of them own homes, are citizens now, have good jobs. We are convinced that this will also be the trend for our latest arrivals.”
World Relief is not alone in helping evacuees relocate to their new homes. While World Relief is responsible for ensuring refugee families have a place to live and offer assistance for things like employment, education and legal services, support for refugees comes on a more personal level from other organizations and community groups.
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Members of the Muslim community Oshkosh Ahmadiyya volunteer to help refugees who are new to the area, with everything from a trip to the doctor’s office to offering donated supplies and furniture.
Over the past few years, the Oshkosh chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has helped refugees settle in the Fox Valley from countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
While 200 Afghan evacuees arriving in a few months are a much higher influx than they have seen before, the Oshkosh Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is preparing to help in the same way it has helped other groups of refugees, public affairs said director Khurram Ahmad. through offering financial support, services and developing personal relationships.
Just a few years ago, Ahmad said, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was one of the only organizations in Fox Valley to offer services and support to refugees who had recently been resettled.
But in recent years, awareness of the cultural differences and needs of refugees from another part of the globe has developed enormously.
“Four or five years ago, the cultural difference, or the understanding of the cultural differences, was enormous. Our school systems, our hospitals, none of them were prepared or understood that nuance,” Ahmad said. “That challenge is almost non-existent now.”
The wider Fox Valley community has also gone up with donations to Afghan refugees.
Ahmad said the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Masjid Qamar Oshkosh Mosque has become a collection point for donations of items such as warm clothes and cleaning supplies from across the community.
The mosque currently holds more donations than it has been able to distribute. Ahmad said Fort McCoy and the Salvation Army have stopped receiving donations, and the community is reaching out to cities outside of Wisconsin that may need supplies for refugees.
World Relief has also seen a stream of support in Fox Valley for Afghan evacuees, McLaughlin said, with people calling to offer support, send donations and train to volunteer.
“An agency can in no way do it alone, and this community is really a strong community,” McLaughlin said. “We are grateful for that.”
Ahmad said community support is essential to help evacuated families adjust to their new homes. Recent examples of this support have included members of the local community who have purchased a dining table for a refugee family from Goodwill, and a local mechanic is offering a reduced price for repairing a donated car for a refugee family.
“You have to understand the dignity aspect of it,” Ahmad said. “You can not just say, ‘Oh, here’s a room, stay here.’ We have to share from their perspective that they had a decent life where they came from. “
Wisconsin has previously been home to a large influx of refugees. After the Vietnam War, Hmong refugees resettled in the United States, many in Wisconsin. As of the 2010 census, Wisconsin had the third largest Hmong population in the United States after California and Minnesota.
Ahmad said that while much of the world’s focus at the moment is on refugees from Afghanistan, people have always been and will continue to flee countries everywhere and seek new, safe homes. Ahmad said he hopes support communities point to refugees coming from Afghanistan continuing as a trend for refugees from all nations.
“Resettlement of refugees will continue,” Ahmad said. “If you look at our reaction in history, the first big wave of refugees was the Hmong refugees. Now they are largely a well-organized, ingrained community in northern Wisconsin.”
Contact Kelli Arseneau at (920) 213-3721 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.