Tags: Afghanistan | afghanistan | allies | federal | resettlement | program

Wash. Free Beacon: Afghan Allies in US Treated Horribly

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Mar 2015 07:29 PM

Some of the U.S. military's top Afghan allies such as military translators "have been placed in empty, rodent-and-bedbug-infested apartments by federal resettlement programs," according to an investigation by the Washington Free Beacon.

Others face difficulty paying for everyday expenses like baby diapers and groceries. Some families have become so desperate that they went back to Afghanistan despite the fact that interpreters and other U.S. allies are top Taliban assassination targets.

One Afghan who has struggled after being resettled in the United States is Ajmal Faqiri, now living in Maryland. Faqiri is a former translator with the U.S. military who once worked for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Right now, he worries about getting evicted from his home, and, if he stays there, whether the heat will work.

Faqiri is also concerned about his ability to afford groceries for his family.

"We came with a lot of expectation … we thought we helped Americans, we will be safe," said Faqiri. "All these things were just a mirage, or kind of like a dream."

Faqiri arrived in the United States last January after spending three years on a waiting list for the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program.

His case was assigned to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which receives federal money for resettlement purposes.

The federal government requires the IRC and similar groups to provide immigrants with clean, furnished apartments, job placement help, initial rent payments, and other support.

The IRC moved Faqiri into the Parkview Gardens housing complex in Riverdale, Maryland. Faqiri said that at Parkview – where aid groups have resettled dozens of Afghan interpreters and their families –  there was no furniture and that when he arrived, the heat was broken.

During multiple visits to the Parkview Gardens, the Free Beacon saw signs of roach and rodent infestation, and a number of interpreters complained that they had difficulty sleeping because of bedbugs.

Interviews with more than a dozen Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and groups which advocate on their behalf turned up similar stories.

Matt Zeller, a former U.S. army officer who runs an advocacy group for Iraqi and Afghan SIVs called No One Left Behind, said that he often hears about experiences like this.

Zeller's group has provided furniture and extended rental help for several of the interpreters interviewed for this story, including Faqiri.

For Zeller, the issue is personal. He credits his own former interpreter, Janis Shinwari, with saving his life during an ambush in Afghanistan.

"These are veterans," said Zeller. "None of them are arriving here on the Mexican border, or over a shipping container. They’re all coming here the right way – the way we have asked people to do so."

Various interpreters staying at Parkview Gardens said they and their families were also alarmed by reports of break-ins at the complex as well.

While U.S. resettlement groups pay the first three months' rent for those with Special Immigration Visas, many participants are locked into year-long leases and have difficulty finding jobs in order to afford the rent, which is about $1,000 a month.

One young doctor who had worked as an interpreter in Afghanistan moved to the United States but had difficulty finding a job here. He returned to Afghanistan, but regretted it and tried to come back to the United States. The doctor emailed Zeller Aug. 4 telling him that a local Taliban commander was threatening his life.

Zeller said he wrote back, but that the man never responded.

The treatment that these Afghans are receiving in the United States "makes no sense from a national security standpoint," Zeller said. "If that's the message that gets out, who's going to support us in Yemen? Or [if] God forbid, we're back in Iraq?"

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Some of the U.S. military's top Afghan allies such as military translators "have been placed in empty, rodent-and-bedbug-infested apartments by federal resettlement programs," according to an investigation by the Washington Free Beacon.
afghanistan, allies, federal, resettlement, program
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2015-29-11
Wednesday, 11 Mar 2015 07:29 PM
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