With many interpreters, families still trying to leave Afghanistan, a local organization offers help

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It has been nearly a month since U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan, ending the longest war in the country’s history. 

However, many interpreters and families who helped the U.S. during the war are still waiting in fear to get out.

Rochester’s Refugees Helping Refugees has been helping people fill out applications for humanitarian parole for their family members. 

“We have a handful of clients from Afghanistan who have brothers, fathers, you know, mothers, sisters, cousins in Afghanistan, who are in really dire situations. A lot of them were working for the government or were in some kind of high profile lifestyle,” said Pamala Adams, a Case Manager and advocate at Refugees Helping Refugees. 

The humanitarian parole comes after the Biden Administration announced last month that they will be using its parole authority to process in evacuated Afghans who do not already have visas. 

Adams says the application grants permission for people in Afghanistan to come into the United States for a temporary period of time due to the emergency situation there.

But applying for parole can take both time and money, which is something not all families have. 

“People are being actively searched for and hunted for by the Taliban and we’ve had clients just really hysterical, understandably, you know unable to sleep because they’re so worried,” Adams said.

“They can’t get in touch with their family members, they find out the family has been hiding in a garage, or, we’ve just heard terrible stories of bomb threats in their cars and watching other family members, neighbors being killed by the Taliban,” she continued.

Adams says they are asking the community for help with donations because the application process can be expensive, especially for large-sized families. 

“We are raising money for the humanitarian parole fee, which is $575 per application. And each family member in Afghanistan needs their own application. So you can imagine it’s quite expensive,” Adams said. 

Rochester residents Haji Yuldash and Dina Ehmeid know first hand what it’s like to have family still in Afghanistan and be waiting desperately for them to come to a safer place.

Ehmeid’s brother is currently in the country and she said he worked in high up positions, which is why she is worried the Taliban is looking for him. 

“He is not safe,” Ehmeid said. “Two times they have come in and knocked on my mother home and they question about my brother.”

Yuldash worked as an interpreter for the U.S. before coming to America on a Special Immigrant Visa. He still has a brother in Afghanistan who worked for the Afghan Air Force. 

“Taliban got the biometrics of national army and they afraid that they are going to be searched by the device that they have in their hand. So their fingerprints and other biodata is right now in the Taliban’s hands,  so there’s a lot of chance that they will be in search, they will be cut, and that’s why I have a concern about his future,” Yuldash said. 

With U.S. troops now gone, Yuldash said it’s even more difficult for families who have helped the U.S. 

“People in Afghanistan wanted always peace and prosperity, and they tasted freedom and democracy in 20 years with the help of United States…. everything is now coming back to the beginning,” Yuldash said. “20 years of accomplishment… wiped it out in 20 days.”

Because of the uncertainty over family member’s safety, Yuldash, Dina, and many others are calling on the government to help speed up the humanitarian parole process. 

“I request from US government to accelerate humanitarian program for those who filed parole and SIVS to bring them here,” Yuldash said. 

Along with the expensive cost, Adams says another tricky part of humanitarian parole is that even if someone is granted it by the US government, they still have to find their own way to leave Afghanistan. 

Those on this parole who come to the United States will also eventually have to apply for a more permanent status. 

To help pay for parole application fees, Refugees Helping Refugees has set up a GoFundMe link to collect donations. They have already raised close to $3,000. Their goal is to collect $20,000, which would sponsor 20 individuals.

You can also send a check made out to Refugees Helping Refugees to 259 Rutgers St, Rochester, NY 14607.

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