Photos: PHL Airport welcomes Afghan refugees

You can help by donating to local relief organizations.

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Dave Rosenblum for Philadelphia

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The international terminal of the Philadelphia airport was transformed this weekend into a welcoming center for people evacuated from Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. military pullout. PHL was the second airport designated by the White House to receive evacuees, after Dulles in Virginia.

Nearly 2,400 evacuees came in through Philly between Saturday and Tuesday, city officials confirmed, with more expected to arrive.

“We have a host of partners here — federal, state, and local — all with one mission: to do our absolute best to provide a wonderful welcome to all the folks coming back from Afghanistan,” Adam Thiel, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said at a Saturday night briefing..

Between 75 and 100 different agencies and organizations were helping with the operation, Thiel estimated, including those from government and many nonprofit partners.

PHL Terminal A was sectioned into different areas, with one set of tables holding food and toiletry supplies, another part set up for COVID testing, and a different space laid out with a dozen prayer rugs. According to the city, services offered to evacuees who have cleared customs include:

  • Translation in Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Farsi
  • Culturally appropriate food
  • Comfort items like stuffed animals
  • Diapers and hygiene products
  • General medical examinations
  • Mental health support services
  • Free COVID vaccines
  • An escort while they pick up luggage
  • Transportation to their next destination

Nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Burlington, N.J., currently has capacity for 3,500 evacuees, according to The Inquirer, which the military hopes to expand to 10,000 by Sept. 15.

Want to help people coming in? Here’s a few ways to do it.

→ Volunteer

→ Donate funds

  • The Nationalities Service Center has launched the Transforming Welcoming fund, which will be used to furnish houses and apartments, cover rent payments, offset grocery costs, buy public transit cards, and more.
  • HIAS Pennsylvania accepts donations to ensure Afghan immigrants and evacuees have somewhere safe to turn.

→ Donate goods

Scroll down for a look inside the welcoming center for people escaping the violence in Kabul.

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Adam Thiel, Fire Commissioner and director of the Office of Emergency Management
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Medical staffers on standby
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