Home Commentary World Refugee Day: Little ‘Hope Away from Home’ for Afghans in Vermont

World Refugee Day: Little ‘Hope Away from Home’ for Afghans in Vermont

Submitted by the Vermont Afghan Alliance

June 20 marked World Refugee Day, a day dedicated to honoring the resilience and courage of refugees worldwide. The theme for this year is “Hope Away from Home,” which unfortunately rings hollow for many of the more than 500 Afghans now resettled in Vermont. These individuals, who courageously served alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, face significant challenges and unmet promises.

These Afghan allies risked their lives and the safety of their families to support U.S. missions. In return for their invaluable service, the U.S. government promised them relocation to the United States and the opportunity to reunite with their families here in Vermont. Unfortunately, almost three years later, many of these promises remain unfulfilled.

Since their arrival, many Afghans, mostly men on their own, have encountered numerous challenges, including extensive immigration processing delays, separation from their families, and substantial economic hardships. Many are working long hours, often exceeding 60 hours per week, to send money back to their families who are still in Afghanistan. Many of their families face constant threats of extortion or death by the Taliban. As a result, children are growing up without their fathers, and wives are enduring prolonged separations from their husbands.

This existence is not only unsustainable, it is inhumane. Without family reunification, these Afghans are left in limbo, caught between a place they cannot return to and a new home with little hope or future. What is more, without confirmation as to when, or if, wives and children will ever be evacuated and resettled in Vermont, they are tormented emotionally and unable to fully invest in a new life in this country.

Not a day goes by that we do not witness the agony of these individuals, whom we work to support through essential services. We serve as their interpreters, case workers, driving instructors, and employment advisors. More than that, we serve as a welcoming space, and we lend an ear for their struggles here in Vermont, for their loneliness and isolation and their learning to navigate a new culture. We offer hot tea, dried fruit, and a welcome home at our office. We host cultural celebrations to ease, to the extent possible, the pain of being far away from family. The strength of those we serve is unparalleled, but we are deeply concerned for their wellbeing.

On World Refugee Day, we urge the U.S. government to honor commitments to these individuals who sacrificed so much for this country. We urge the U.S. government to recognize the inhumanity of the present existence of these Afghans and to take urgent, tangible steps to bring their families to safety in Vermont.

The United States has a moral obligation to uphold promises made and to provide refuge to those who have stood by this country in times of need. On World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to our Afghan allies and take concrete steps to ensure their families are safe, have dignity, and have a future in the United States.

Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, Anne Miller, Hamed Noorzai, Drukhshan Farhad, and Yassin Hashimi serve as the staff of the Vermont Afghan Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to serve the growing Afghan community in Vermont. 

The material presented here represents the opinion of the author and does not reflect the opinions of The Bridge. Commentaries may be submitted to editor@montpelierbridge.com. Preference is given to submissions by those who live in central Vermont. Submissions are encouraged to be 500 to 750 words in length.