As the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold, Edmonton and Calgary are now welcoming people who were able to escape the Taliban.
This is the beginning, with thousands of refugees expected to call Alberta home in the coming months.
“So far, we have 80 of them in Alberta: 60 in Calgary, 20 of them in Edmonton. We are expecting more to come, and these are actually the people coming after their two-week quarantine from Toronto,” Calgary Catholic Social Services CEO Fariborz Birjandian said.
Catholic social services agencies in the province are contracted in getting government-assisted refugee families settled as they transition to their new home.
“Usually, we keep them for 15 to 21 days to go through the orientation to get to know the city, their documentation, health and school issues and then they move to permanent accommodations,” Birjandian said.
In the coming months, Birjandian said roughly 5,000 refugees are expected to move to not only Edmonton and Calgary but also Red Deer, Brooks, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
But as they arrive, large welcome parties at airports like when Syrian refugees came to Canada are not expected or planned.
“They’ve been torn away from their homeland, they’re leaving people who they love behind, they are obviously very concerned about what’s going on. So we try and keep information pretty tight about where they are,” Edmonton Catholic Social Services director of development and community relations Eoin Murray said.
Global News spoke to refugees who supported the Canadian military or government and are now trying to adjust to life in Alberta, but they say so far, it’s not easy.
They still fear for the safety of family members in Afghanistan, so Global News has agreed to conceal their identities.
“We are happy here but still we cannot say we are completely happy because we are worried about our country, about our relatives and the people back home,” said a recent refugee who arrived in Calgary.
“The feeling was mixed of happiness and sadness, but we like being here,” said another refugee who arrived in Calgary.
As more refugees arrive, organizations like the Islamic Family and Social Services Association will be sponsoring and supporting refugees.
It will also be working to help bring loved ones trapped abroad.
“The work we do is long term. When someone lands, it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Omar Yaqub with the Islamic Family and Social Services Association said.