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Afghanistan refugees arrive at Philadelphia International Airport


PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan arrived at Philadelphia International Airport early Saturday morning.

Action News has learned between 250 and 300 refugees have landed.

Officials from Homeland Security, the Red Cross and Philadelphia’s emergency management are all assisting the new arrivals with their paperwork and COVID-19 testing.

Philadelphia is just one of two selected cities to receive refugees.

According to airport officials, the refugees will be heading to New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which has now been dubbed “Operation Task Force Liberty.”

“To date, Task Force Liberty has supported 1,192 Afghans who are being housed in a mix of hard and soft-sided structures. Final capacity there is expected to be at least 10,000,” said General Glen Vanherck of Northcom.

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But some are likely to make a stop at pier five in Camden, New Jersey. That’s where a warehouse is being converted into a shelter should the joint base run into delays.

“Basically, that staging area will provide food, necessities, and medical care,” said Camden County spokesman Dan Keeshan.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s office says this operation is led by the federal government. They are collaborating to give refugees access to local immigration services, along with housing and medical assistance.

“Philadelphia stands in solidarity with Afghan refugees, and we look forward to providing them a safe haven in our welcoming city,” said Kenney in a statement Thursday.

On Friday night Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said this is an honor.

“These folks have suffered greatly. They’re traumatized, with children with them. We just want to have open arms and a welcoming atmosphere,” said Kenney.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy established a task force Friday to aid Afghan refugees coming into the state.

Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order creating the Task Force on Afghan Refugee Assistance with the aim of ensuring New Jersey is prepared to receive and assist those coming into the state.

New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is currently receiving Afghans, with military officials proposing taking up to 9,500 people for up to a year.

In a letter to President Biden, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said, “My administration has and continues to collaborate with the federal government and local refugee resettlement agencies to connect refugees resettled in Pennsylvania with benefit programs and supportive services.”

Refugees will undergo background checks and security screenings done by U.S. intelligence. After they are cleared, they will be relocated to the United States, and upon arrival they will receive Covid vaccines.

How to help

Many of the refugees coming to Philadelphia through this operation do not speak English. To communicate with them, the city is asking for help from volunteers who can interpret in Dari or Pashto.

All volunteers who can provide interpretation services are required to be members of the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

To sign up, visit the SERVPA website and select “Medical Reserve Corps Organizations” from the On drop-down menu, then select Philadelphia MRC” from the secondary menu. The MRC is actively reviewing applications and will be in touch as soon as possible.

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