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Edmonton community groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees

Click to play video: 'Edmonton community groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees' Edmonton community groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees
Canada's evacuation mission is over in Afghanistan, where the situation is said to be getting worse by the minute. The people who did manage to escape have a new challenge ahead — some soon to be resettling in Edmonton. Now many people in our city want to know how to help. Morgan Black reports – Aug 26, 2021

Canada’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan is over.

Many Afghan-Canadians have been left stunned by how fast things have escalated in Kabul, after at least two explosions led to numerous deaths in the city.

Read more: ‘They tear at our souls’: Canada ends Kabul evacuation effort as many left behind

Those who did manage to escape now have a new challenge ahead — some soon to be re-settling in Edmonton.

Incoming refugees to Edmonton

The timeline of that arrival remains unclear, according to Catholic Social Services (CSS), the contracted agency for getting government-assisted refugees settled in Edmonton and Red Deer.

Sharon Yeo, director of immigration and settlement service, said the situation in Afghanistan has been rapidly changing.

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“Information has been sparse. We don’t have all of the information at our disposal,” she said.

Once refugees arrive in Edmonton, they will be connected to essential services like health care, school enrollment and employment opportunities, with the help of community organizations like CSS.

Inside the front reception of Catholic Social Services’ Reception House. Courtesy: Catholic Social Services

“We receive refugees straight from the airport and help them set up roots in the community,” Yeo said.

Yeo said staff, who speak the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan — Dari and Pashto — will greet newcomers upon arrival.

Read more: Newcomer groups will use Syrian refugee program format to help Afghan refugees

Edris Azizi is a volunteer with the Edmonton Afghan Charitable Society. The president said the group is working to be there for new arrivals, just as they were for Syrian refugees when they came to Canada.

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Azizi came to Canada from Afghanistan at 16 years old. He said one of the first challenges is culture shock.

Read more: Here’s how you can help Afghan citizens right now

“We are going to be planning welcome hampers to hand out to every family. We will be there every step of the way for each of the families,” Azizi said.

He said while it is great news many people will find safety in Canada, there are still many people being left behind now that Canada’s evacuation effort has stopped.

“Can you imagine how the people in Afghanistan feel who have been left and feel so hopeless?” he said.

Click to play video: 'Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends' Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends
Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends – Aug 26, 2021

How to help Afghan refugees

Edmonton community members want to help, but CSS staff say they are waiting to see exactly what incoming individuals and families need before recruiting volunteers.

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“It’s a wide spectrum. If we have learned anything from the Syrian refugees arriving, it’s that we know people will want to help and step up to support the new community residents,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends' Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends
Afghan-Canadians say they fear safety of loved ones as country’s extraction mission ends – Aug 26, 2021

Reyhana Patel with Islamic Relief Canada said if you want to help right now, you can donate to support efforts that can help people still in Afghanistan.

“There’s a lot of disorganization. Not enough people to coordinate the evacuation. A lot of people are living in open spaces. No water, no shelter.

“A lot of these people are women and girls which leaves them very, very vulnerable.

“Even before all of this, there were up to 14 million Afghans facing food insecurity. We can only see this humanitarian situation getting worse.”

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Patel encouraged people to research which organizations are providing support to resettled refugees and those still in Afghanistan.

Read more: Airbnb offers free temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees globally

“The most pressing issue right now would be those displaced people in the open space, but also the food insecurity. It has been a country that has been unstable for a while now. Food shortages, shelter and water needs. It’s only going to get worse.”

You can donate to Islamic Relief Canada here.

If you are interested in volunteering with CSS, potential volunteers can email here.

Sign of Hope is accepting funds that will be designated for use to support Afghans arriving to Edmonton and Red Deer here. You can also donate by phone at 780-439-4673.

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