With births and a magnificence salon, Afghan ‘guests’ rework US base

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, New Jersey, Sept 27 – It might be the completely satisfied moments, like information of the 24 infants born right here or final weekend’s wedding ceremony. Or perhaps it’s speak of the trauma amongst evacuees or the Afghans selecting by garments on folding tables after shedding completely all the things.

However there’s a way that life’s occasions, in all of their complexity, are merely unfolding for the over 9,300 Afghan evacuees who’ve come to name this US navy base in New Jersey residence over the previous month or so – and who could also be right here for a while.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one of eight locations in the USA internet hosting tens of 1000’s of Afghans who fled aboard US evacuation flights when the USA exited Afghanistan final month after shedding the struggle to the Taliban. Making an attempt to make them really feel welcome, officers right here seek advice from the Afghans as their “guests.”

Indicators of the swelling logistical challenges are in every single place. Building crews push piles of gravel round and are including to the already huge expanse of white tents housing evacuees. Garments are draped throughout chain-link fences, presumably air-drying. Youngsters are in every single place.

Maybe unsurprisingly, unseen challenges are simply as daunting, significantly within the space of psychological well being.

“Everybody here has been through a traumatic experience fleeing Afghanistan,” stated one US navy official, briefing US Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin exterior a women-only dormitory.

Austin was visiting on Monday as Liberty Village celebrated a serious milestone: Eleven Afghans from two households have been the primary to depart the bottom to be resettled inside the USA.

It was a small step, and an indication of how a lot work lies forward.

“I know this is not easy,” Austin stated, as he thanked US personnel. “I know we came together … in a very short period of time. But you have done remarkable work.”

“I’ve love to be a resident”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to an Afghan evacuee during a visit to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
US Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to an Afghan evacuee throughout a go to to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Reuters/Phil Stewart

The Monday go to was the primary time reporters have been allowed into Liberty Village. The bottom has a historical past of aiding evacuees. In 1999, it acquired greater than 4,000 refugees fleeing the struggle in Kosovo.

When Afghans arrive, they’re given wristbands with distinctive identification numbers. Some have been fortunate sufficient to get locations in dormitories. Others are staying in huge tents with solely fabric privateness boundaries separating households.

The neighborhood surrounding the bottom has donated all the things from college provides to toys and prayer rugs. However the scale of donations initially overwhelmed navy personnel.

As Liberty Village expanded, it started common purchases of provides and inspired well-wishers to shift to digital present playing cards as a substitute of bodily donations for evacuees.

Not everybody obtained the memo. One native resident stated in a latest city corridor occasion together with her congressman that she pulled into a group website with donations and noticed “lots and lots of open bags sitting out there in the rain.”

“I now have boxes and boxes of things that I purchased that I would love to give,” she stated.

How lengthy Liberty Village will exist is unclear. US authorities officers have arrange makeshift workplaces to fast-track paperwork for Afghans, shortening a typically years-long course of to weeks or months to permit their resettlement.

Nevertheless it’s clear Liberty Village is bracing for the chilly climate forward, with extra evacuees attributable to arrive from US bases abroad.

Afghans listed here are additionally settling in. A gaggle of Afghan ladies arrange a magnificence salon at Liberty Village that helped get the bride prepared for the marriage final weekend.

Again in Afghanistan, viral movies circulated displaying magnificence parlors portray over photographs of ladies because the Taliban retook management. Through the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, they barred ladies from leaving residence with out a male family member and shuttered faculties for women.

As Austin walked round Liberty Village throughout his Monday go to, he heard from two ladies who hoped to turn out to be medical doctors in the USA. They beamed with optimism.

“I’d love to be a resident of America,” certainly one of them stated.

“You will be,” Austin replied.

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