ST. LOUIS – America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan created a humanitarian crisis in its wake, as tens of thousands of Afghans look to flee their native land as the Taliban assumes power once again. These are people who provided aid to U.S. forces over the last two decades and now fear reprisal, or families seeking a better way of life.
The St. Louis area is one of 19 communities around the country being considered for Afghan resettlement.
Local leadership, members of the business community, and representatives of the International Institute say St. Louis can and should be ready to accept these immigrants looking for new homes.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said the city welcomed and resettled tens of thousands of Bosnians who migrated to the United States amid the Bosnian War over the last quarter-century. Over that time, the Bosnian community has become an integral part of the St. Louis region.
“Immigrants make our community stronger,” said Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc.
According to Hall, 44% of the Fortune 500 companies in America were started by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.
Opening our arms to these families is not only the smart thing to do economically, it’s the right thing to do morally, he said.
Hall said the business community will coordinate with the International Institute of St. Louis to assess, train, and introduce these individuals into the local workforce.
Some refugees from Afghanistan have already arrived in St. Louis seeking a new home after their country was taken over by the Taliban.
Oasis International is doing what it can to help.
Fifty-one-year-old Bacha Wali Bacha served with the U.S. special forces for 16 years in Afghanistan and has been turning on the news regularly to get the latest updates on how the Taliban have been advancing in his native country.
He came to St Louis a few years ago and succeeded in getting his wife and nine kids here. The rest of his family is still in Afghanistan, where they have been waiting for their visas to be processed for several years.
“There are people who live far from Kabul,” he said. “They don’t know how they are going to make it to the airport. They must go through many Taliban checkpoints to get there.”
Many other Afghans who also served in combat are hoping family back home can join them soon.
“My sister and dad are hiding; my mom and brother are hiding,” said Riaz Ahmad Saidliaqat. “There is no way out. They are stuck there,”
Nisar Ahmad just arrived in St. Louis two weeks ago and is desperately trying to figure how his entire family can escape.
“My family is still there, my mom and dad, my brother. We see the situation in my country and it hurts my heart,” he said.
As the Taliban take over Afghanistan, local refugee organizations see an influx in calls at Oasis International.
The local organizations say they are overwhelmed with calls and applications of Afghan people seeking refuge.
“We are ready with open arms, we want to love these people. We love them in our hearts. We are prepared to receive them…especially the Afghan people who have served with the U.S. Army,” said Mark Akers, founder and CEO of Oasis International.
“America owes these people a debt,” said Peter Lucier, a United States Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan.
Lucier served in the USMC from 2008-2013 as an infantry rifleman. He served on a 7-month deployment in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012.
The veteran said Afghans served and fought alongside Americans against the Taliban and terrorist groups, and deserve our respect and help.
By welcoming these refugees, Lucier said the city and county are allowing him and other veterans the chance to repay that debt.
It’s a show of support for our armed forces by welcoming Afghans who risked their lives to assist our military efforts in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, Hall said.
Donations can be made online to the International Institute or Oasis Institute. Oasis is also in need of new mattresses, bed frames, and linens for arriving refugees, and has an Amazon list for additional financial or item donations.