Michigan agency preps to receive Afghan refugees after Taliban takeover

Michigan's Samaritas preparing to receive refugees
Posted at 11:36 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 07:40:12-04

(WXYZ) — As the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold, more social service agencies across the U.S. and here in Michigan are mobilizing relief efforts.

Many here in metro Detroit are horrified at the images coming in from Afghanistan. One man, who came to the U.S. as a child refugee, is now sharing his own story as a way to educate others.

"(It) really bothers me to see people in those vulnerable situations. These are happening all over the world, whether we see them on our screens or not,” said Kamal Alsawafy, who is supporting refugee efforts.

Looking back on his own life experience, coming to the U.S. in 1997 as a refugee, Alsawafy says leaving Iraq was a matter of life and death for his family. At the time, he felt he'd found a new home and somewhere he could feel safe. It was a far cry from southern Iraq.

“For one, there was poverty and my father was targeted by the oppressive regime of Sadam Hussein," Alsawafy said. "Life or death situation and we had no choice but to leave everything behind.”

Now at age 33, Alsawafy is watching the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan closely, one that President Biden previously remarked was not likely.

As someone who's not only become a U.S. citizen but gone on to work in county government to serve in the Army National Guard and run for Dearborn city council, he's hoping to see those in harm's way find the same safe haven he once did, here in Michigan.

“We are scaling up from 100 refugees in 2021 as an original number to 500,” said Mihaela Mitrofan, with refugee services for Samaritas.

Mitrofan is part of a massive effort on behalf of Samaritas to help hundreds of refugees escape danger at the hands of the Taliban. Her organization is now taking steps to find homes and resources here in Michigan for Afghan families and others who've been instrumental in working with the U.S. military for two decades.

“Afghanis eligible for resettlement under the special immigrant visa program could be arriving in Michigan any day now,” Mitrofan said.

In part of a statement just released, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell added: “I am closely monitoring the evolving situation in Afghanistan. The images we are seeing are disturbing and there will be many questions Congress will need answered in the coming weeks and months ahead…”

Mitrofan says she's hopeful the federal government will be able to provide adequate resources to help all this as so many lives are at stake.

“At Samaritas we are prepared to welcome them and offer shelter and support. Addressing the trauma that they have faced,” she said.

For more information, visit the Samaritas website here.