KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The first family of Afghan refugees seeking to settle in Manhattan has arrived.
The family of five arrived at the Kansas City International Airport late Friday evening. The family, which is the first group out of at least 55 people fleeing Afghanistan to seek a life in Manhattan, consists of a mother and father in their mid-20s and three young daughters ages 5, 4, and 1 month.
For safety reasons, the family declined to be identified by The Mercury. Through an interpreter, the father said his 1-month-old baby was born at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 21 — less than a week after the Taliban took over Kabul, the country’s capital — and the family fled the country two days later on Aug. 23.
They stayed at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, before flying to Kansas City. Case managers with the Northeast Kansas Catholic Charities of Kansas City, Kan., provided the family with a cell phone to make calls. Resettlement team volunteers brought snacks and toys for the children to play with in the airport while their parents filled out paperwork and officials installed car seats to help transport the family to Manhattan.
Upon arriving in Manhattan, the family checked into a hotel, where they will start acclimating to life in the U.S. and will reunite with friends who already live in the area. Next, the resettlement team will work to place the family in a house. A community-wide celebration welcoming the family, and future Afghan refugees, is being planned for Thursday at the Islamic Center of Manhattan.
Elfadil Bashir, a resettlement team volunteer and an interfaith leader with the Islamic Center, said it’s “very exciting” to welcome the first family of Afghan evacuees to Manhattan, and seeing local support for them is just as exciting.
“Many community members are gathering together and offering resources from different perspectives, and everyone is coming with ideas for how to use those resources,” said Bashir, a plant genetics research technician at K-State.
Bashir, who is also a plant breeding and genetics postdoctoral researcher at Kansas State University, said “it’s really amazing” to see how people in the Manhattan area are stepping up to help refugees and welcome them to a new life in the U.S. He said he’s talked to people who wish to support refugee families, from offering clothes and toys to housing and other assistance.
“There’s a lot of good examples of many people from Manhattan who are really willing to help and be welcoming,” Bashir said.
Many Manhattan-area Afghans are worried about their extended family members becoming targets of revenge for the Taliban, after the terrorist organization seized control of Afghanistan in August.
U.S. Army veteran Fatima Jaghoori, co-leader of the local resettlement team, is working to bring her extended family to Kansas for fear of retaliation. Manhattan resident and former U.S. Army interpreter Matiullah Shinwari told The Mercury in August that he was concerned about his extended family members trying to safely leave Afghanistan.
Shinwari, whose brother was murdered by Taliban fighters this summer, said the Taliban will seek revenge against the families of interpreters and those who helped American and allied armed forces by potentially hiring mercenaries to hold people ransom or commit violence against them.