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Volunteers Help Afghan Refugees With Food And Supplies

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A group of volunteers donated food, clothes and other supplies to Afghan refugees living in a hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Sunday.

"We are just waiting. We hope in the future we get a home," said Munir Sadaqa.

Since October, families have lived in Extended Stay hotel rooms on International Drive. This temporary housing placement follows the mass evacuations from Kabul amidst the grips of the Taliban in mid-August. From Afghanistan, several refugees were sent to other countries first, including Qatar and Germany, before ultimately landing on U.S. soil.

"More than six months we have been out of our country. Our heart is broken. We left half of our family in Afghanistan," Sadaqa said.

The father and husband explained that he served alongside our troops as an interpreter for about 10-years.

"We need our documents. We should get a home. I want to put my daughter into school. I need good work because I was an interpreter with the U.S. Marines."

Local non-profits and churches have been donating food, clothing and supplies but volunteers are concerned about a centralized organization leading the effort to resettle the Afghan refugee families.

"Not only did they go through a tragedy before they arrived, they're going through this turmoil and tragedy now that they're here and that shouldn't be happening," said Jenna Whitney, who organized Sundays giveaway.

U.S. refugee resettlement organizations and advocates will assist people with necessary resources but so far, the people living in the hotel said the wait continues.

"In the future, hopefully, we would like our kids to get an education and be able to live here peacefully," said another former interpreter who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Among the volunteers stepping in to help Sunday was Barbara Ferris, who leads the non-profit organization International Women's Democracy Center. Through volunteer work based in D.C., Ferris said 3-decades have been spent welcoming refugees into America.

"We help them find housing, we furnish their houses," said Ferris. "The beds are made, the fridge is stocked, sofas out, carpets laid, towels hung, shower curtain is up and the idea behind that is, it's the first time in many, many months they're sleeping in their own bed."

Although her organization is not in charge of resettling this particular group of Afghan refugees, Ferris helped mobilize the donations given out to families.

"It changes the whole tone of these families… 'Finally someone cares about us.'"

On Friday, WJZ reached out to Governor Larry Hogan's office for comment on the situation unfolding near Baltimore. So far, a representative has not responded.

A statement was also requested from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Baltimore for information on whether the organization is currently working with these families or if volunteers would be able to step-in to help, otherwise.

Although a reply to WJZ's questions has not been answered as of late Sunday evening, an automatic response was received in the meantime which reads:

"If you are an Afghan with humanitarian parole requesting services, please note that we are not able to accept new walk-in cases at this time given our current caseload. Staff are extremely busy resettling approximately 50 Afghans per week who are assigned to the Baltimore office directly by the U.S. Department of State. Please feel free to check back with us starting on January 31 to see if we are able to accept new walk-in Afghan parolee cases at that time."

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, certain Afghans who aided U.S. forces as interpreters, translators or served in other roles qualify for Special Immigrant Visas, as do certain family members. Some living at the hotel said they are applicants. Others who lack valid immigration status when arriving in the U.S. can be permitted to enter through "humanitarian parole."

The federal government lists certain benefits for both options, including cash and medical assistance, employment preparation, job placement, English language training and other services.

There are several ways to get involved to help. The White House offers these tips to get started:

  1. Donate to a local resettlement organization or volunteer:
  2. Sign up to donate temporary housing.
  3. Donate:
  4. Offer a job.
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