Philadelphia International Airport received its 25,000th evacuee from Afghanistan, highlighting its role as the primary point of arrival and reception for the largest resettlement effort since the end of the Vietnam War.
Precisely 25,009 people landed here on Thursday, most of whom were transported by bus from the airport to temporary accommodation at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in southern Jersey. From there, they will be resettled in communities across the country.
Flights have slowed considerably over the past two weeks, from five or six a day to one or two. The planes will continue to land at a slow pace over the next several months, officials said. Over the past 10 days, flights to Philadelphia have averaged one flight per day.
Mayor Kenney and other local and federal officials, including Transportation Security Administration director of security Gerardo Spero, United States Representative Mary Gay Scanlon and airport CEO Chellie Cameron, are expected to speak about the ‘stage and the role of the city in the evacuation during a news item at the end of the morning. conference Friday.
An estimated 11,200 evacuees live at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, according to CBS News, the second highest total behind Fort McCoy in Wisconsin at 11,900.
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At the South Jersey base, everyone has the same two questions: When am I going? And where am I going?
So far, numbers coming out of the base have been tight, hampered by the need for immigration approvals and a tight housing market. Philadelphia relocation agencies report that 46 people had been moved to new homes as of September 30. Pennsylvania plans to eventually resettle 995 people, New Jersey 535 and Delaware 30. Evacuees are resettled nationwide, from Fargo, ND, to Dallas to Oklahoma City.
Today, approximately 53,000 Afghans live in eight US military installations across the United States.
Almost everyone who has come to this country has served the United States in a military, diplomatic, or developmental capacity, or is a family member of someone who has. Others worked in the media, women’s organizations or humanitarian groups.
Flights landing in Philadelphia originate from first-stop emergency evacuation centers in Germany, Bahrain, Qatar, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.
Several cases of measles among evacuees in the United States temporarily halted flights on September 11 and prompted the United States to undertake a massive health campaign that vaccinated more than 49,000 people at military facilities in the United States. and in assembly areas in Europe. and the Middle East.
Since August 17, about 9,000 people have left military bases and settled in American communities, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Of these, 6,000 were placed by resettlement agencies. The rest were American citizens, lawful permanent residents or special immigrant visa holders, or were Afghans with close ties to the United States who did not need the support available on bases.
The government says it wants to move people to permanent homes “as soon as possible”, although the timing depends on many factors, including immigration administration and work permits.
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With the onset of cold weather, homeland security officials say they are working with other agencies to make sure Afghan evacuees on bases stay warm.
At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which spans Burlington and Ocean counties, temporary housing is winterized with hard, insulated walls to improve heat retention.
The base is also preparing emergency generators to ensure the heat stays on and improves walking trails to facilitate snow removal. Afghan residents will be provided with coats, boots, caps, gloves and sweaters for cold weather.
Only 300 Afghans are expected to stay in Philadelphia permanently, although that number could increase if the federal government invests more money and resources in housing, food and medical care.
The city’s Afghan community currently numbers around 700 people, most of whom live in northeast Philadelphia, in the neighborhoods of Mayfair and Oxford Circle. The agencies hope to resettle the newcomers there, where they will have help making the transition to American life.