TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — It’s been almost four months since American troops pulled out of Afghanistan. You may remember the images and videos of families desperately trying to flee, even clinging to planes in Kabul. At the time, many Afghan women worried the Taliban would stop them from getting an education.
Now refugees are coming right here to Arizona to attend college. 64 Afghan refugees will be attending ASU next semester. Through partnerships and private donors, refugees will be housed in hotels near campus and attending classes at the Tempe location.
Refugee resettlement agencies are racing to find housing for the approximately 53,000 Afghans on military bases in the United States who will eventually be resettled in the country, but the groups are facing a strained — and expensive — housing market.
On Wednesday, more than 60 Afghan refugees flew into Phoenix to begin their new lives in the United States.
Pam DeLargy is the Director of Education for Humanity at ASU, and she has spent weeks coordinating this effort. The women’s’ resettlement is being co-sponsored by the International Rescue Committee and a partnership with ASU.
“These students had their education interrupted,” DeLargy said. Here they will be able to finish their degrees. Some of them might be starting as freshmen or may be coming in as seniors. They’ll be transferring their credits.”
All 64 refugees were studying at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, Asia but were sent back to Afghanistan because of COVID-19. Shortly after, the Taliban took over.
“They had a pretty traumatic time getting out of Kabul. They were on buses and tried for three days to get to the airport,” DeLargy said. “They were very nervous and worried because everyone had a lot of guns, and that was the same day as one of the bombings that happened at the airport.”
After fleeing their country, they were taken to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, where they lived in barracks for months.
“They had nothing but the clothes on their back,” DeLargy said.
Now the refugees are excited for new opportunities at ASU.
“Some of them will be doing journalism, some will be doing work in languages and literature and economics and nursing,” DeLargy said. “When it’s determined what degree program they will transfer into in the spring, then some may need to go to downtown or west or polytechnic campus.”
DeLargy says a few other schools across the country are taking refugees in, but ASU is the only school in Arizona to do so.
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, 148 Afghan refugees have come to Arizona so far, and 1,610 are expected to arrive through March.
“We have by far the largest number of any school,” DeLargy said
DeLargy said the refugees did go through a vetting process and health screenings. She said many of them are looking to get work permits so they can send money back to their families in Afghanistan. We did try to speak with a refugee, but DeLargy said many aren’t ready to speak publicly yet because their family may still be in danger.
“It’s a very mixed feeling for them; they are relieved and happy to be here,” DeLargy said. “But of course, they miss their families. Some are young and have never been separated from their families. They’re worried about what’s happening in Afghanistan.”
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