Refugees From Afghanistan Arrive to Virginia


Refugees arriving to Dulles (Photo By: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Safa Hameed

During the last week of August, thousands of Afghan immigrants began arriving in Northern Virginia due to the mass evacuations that took place at the Kabul Airport–days after the Taliban took complete control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15.

The first batches of the refugees began arriving Aug. 22, and they were taken briefly to the Dulles Expo Center and the Annandale NOVA campus, while the logistics for healthcare, legal documentation, and housing were being taken care of. From there, the refugees were taken to Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Fort Lee near Petersburg, and Quantico.

At these bases, the refugees underwent massive health screening where everyone will be tested for COVID-19 and offered the vaccine. They will also be vaccinated and screened for other illnesses, some of which are prevalent and a worry like tuberculosis.

Only 10% of the total refugees will stay in Virginia according to a statement put out by Governor Ralph Northam, whereas the others will be transferred to bases all across the country, including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas. Those who have family and houses here, as permanent residents or citizens, were allowed to make their way home immediately–provided that they tested negative for COVID-19. Governor Ralph Northam commented on this saying, “They’re landing in a new country. And so I think a lot of it is going to be educational. I don’t think this is something you just automatically want to say, ‘You need to get a shot.’ So we’re trying to at least handle some of these individuals with respect and, you know, kid gloves, rather than saying, ‘Do this, do that.’ “

Many people have stepped up from all around the country in hopes of helping the refugees once they arrive, especially the Afghan community in NOVA, and citizens from Virginia who have made lots of donations. The Dar Al Noor Mosque in Manassas has been flooded with food, clothes, and supply donations from all over the community after they asked for help on social media. According to the Prince William Times, they were “sorting through truckloads of supplies” after the post was up for four hours only.   

The biggest concern for these refugees is finding housing, according to the International Refugee Committee (IRC), who are overseeing the assimilation of the refugees. Housing is so hard to find for the refugees because many landlords find it too risky to take on refugees without credit or income. Groups like the IRC, appreciate the clothing and food donations, but they make it very clear that the best type of aid is helping to find housing for these refugees. Whether that be donating to a housing fund, telling them of landlords who are willing to take on the refugees, or if you are a landlord that is willing to take on the refugees. More information on how to help the refugees can be found on the IRC’s website.

Beside the IRC, the government works with many non-profit charities in order to help Afghan refugees get settled, find housing, clothing, jobs, and orientated to American life. These usually include several Christian non-profits, like Commonwealth Catholic Charities and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.

A bit of the broader picture starts as the U.S withdrawal in Afghanistan neared, which was when the Taliban swept through the country and seized the capital on August 15–taking back the country since their fall from power in 2001. As soon as this happened, thousands of Afghans rushed to the Kabul Airport–where they waited in the blazing sun with little food or water–in hopes of catching flights out of the country. The scene turned to chaos as the U.S troops secured the airport and tried to start evacuations. Parents handed their babies and children over the fence, to US soldiers, in hopes–that at the least–their children would have a chance of a better life. Some were reunited as their parents were able to make it, while others were evacuated to the U.S as orphans. As the situation intensified, desperation did too, as some people who were not able to secure a flight clung onto the wings and tails of airplanes in hopes of making it out; unfortunately, those who tried fell to their death.