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WBAY Channel 2: [Afghani] Refugee speaks about conditions at Fort McCoy

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 11:15 PM CDT

original article…

Refugee speaks about conditions at Fort McCoy 

 

“MADISON, Wis. (WKOW/WBAY) – One of the thousands of refugees who are currently housed at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy.

Due to continued fear of Taliban retaliation, the refugee’s identity has been concealed.

He says he’s grateful to be safe, but adds that life at Fort McCoy has been a struggle.

Some refugees say they don’t have a change of clothes, and they are dealing with food shortages that force them to ration.

“It is not like that all the time. But if you’re a little bit late, you know, go to the chow hall, you know, most of their, like, four or five times happened, you know, they’re out of food. Or either they have just one other thing, you know, maybe boiled carrots, or little bit rice,” he told our Madison ABC affiliate, WKOW.

His wife, who doesn’t live at the base, also talked about the experience.

“He is not a complainer, he’s not one of those kind of people that is ungrateful at any shape or form. If anything, you know, he’s so grateful to be here,” she said.

The refugee says he asked officials about the food shortages, and was told they didn’t expect this many people to come to the base.

He also says some people need warmer clothes, adding it gets chilly at night.

For a complete list of donation items being accepted and more information, click here. To coordinate donations big or small, or interested in being a drop-off location, email resettlementsupport@teamrubiconusa.org.

WSJ Hamer/Robinson/AP: ‘I just want to leave’: Afghan refugees speak out about conditions at Fort McCoy

15 Sep 2021  | 

original article: ‘I just want to leave’: Afghan refugees speak out about conditions at Fort McCoy 


“I have depression, stress and anxiety, insomnia and it’s getting worse.”

18-year-old Afghan refugee

 

 

“Waiting in line for hours to get food, wearing the same clothes day after day, getting harassed by some of the Afghan men, not knowing the timeline for resettlement — all are problems a pair of Afghan women say they have faced staying at Fort McCoy military base in western Wisconsin, though officials said Tuesday the issues are being addressed.

“There are many people who don’t have anything to wear, anything to eat,” an 18-year-old Afghan woman told the Wisconsin State Journal on Saturday. “They make us wait here for six hours behind the cafeteria, and when you go in there’s nothing left.

“I just want to leave this place so I can start my own life.”

The two women spoke by phone with the Wisconsin State Journal Saturday about their experience at Fort McCoy on the condition of anonymity. They said they feared a negative reaction from some Afghan men housed at the base, many of them former members of the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army who have caused problems, such as harassing women and skipping people in the food lines.

Fort McCoy officials have not granted media requests to interview refugees nor access to the base. They have shared some photos and videos from inside. They have also discouraged volunteers from speaking with the press.

Thomas Gresback, a Fort McCoy spokesperson with the Department of Homeland Security, said Fort McCoy experienced supply chain issues in being able to provide enough food to feed the 12,500 Afghans now at the base. But Fort McCoy has been working to address the issue, Gresback said, and “over the last five days we improved that significantly.” He said the refugees are offered “three hot meals per day” with a protein, a carbohydrate option, fruits, vegetables and drinks.

Gresback said he visited the base’s cafeteria line Monday and saw that Afghans were “very happy” with the changes Fort McCoy made.

“We feel we’ve come a very long way in a very short period,” Gresback told the State Journal on Tuesday.

Fort McCoy is one of eight military bases housing refugees who fled from Afghanistan after the recent collapse of the country’s government to the Taliban. Though the number of refugees in Wisconsin has grown week by week, the U.S. halted incoming flights last week after discovering cases of measles among the refugees, including one case at Fort McCoy.

Gresback acknowledged other complaints raised by Afghan evacuees such as a lack of access to clothing donated to Fort McCoy. Gresback said personnel at the base are “working absolutely as fast as we can” to distribute clothes.

He noted that Fort McCoy is still accepting donations and is especially looking for warm clothes for winter. Donations of new or gently used clothing that has been freshly laundered can be made at the Salvation Army in Madison at 3030 Darbo Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as other Salvation Army locations across Wisconsin.

The second woman who spoke with the State Journal said she desperately wants to change her clothes. On Saturday afternoon, the 40-year-old said she was still wearing the same clothing she wore while escaping from Afghanistan out of the Kabul airport as her country fell to the Taliban. She arrived at Fort McCoy on Sept. 1, 10 days before the interview.

“I couldn’t bring anything from home,” she said, adding she developed an infection after not being able to change her only pair of underwear. “I have to wash that and wait until that is dried and I can wear them again.”

The State Journal was unable to reconnect with the women Tuesday to ask whether conditions had indeed improved over the last few days.

Chris Hennemeyer, who is leading the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ volunteer efforts at Fort McCoy, said the long lines for food are “a thing of the past.”

“(Those issues), they’re all being worked out, and some of them have been sorted out really well,” Hennemeyer said when asked about the long cafeteria lines and the clothing shortage. “The lines that existed a week or so ago, you don’t see them anywhere.”

But one major thing has not been sorted out: when the Afghans get to leave.

Both women said they have Special Immigrant Visas, and are frustrated they’re not being processed through the military base more quickly. After traumatic experiences at the Kabul airport, they’re ready to start their new lives living and working in the U.S.

“I’m not saying I’m not glad I got out of there. I’m saying I’m very happy. I’m very glad I got out of there,” the 18-year-old said of fleeing Afghanistan. “It’s just that I want to be processed out fast. I’m losing lots of my time. It’s a waste of time staying here (at Fort McCoy).”

Sign Sept 2021 Petition Against F-35 Harm

Sign here 

The people of Madison and Wisconsin say…
“That the F-35 is a first strike, offensive weapon designed to carry the most dangerous weapon in our nuclear arsenal, the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. By virtue of housing the delivery vehicle for this nuclear bomb and training pilots to fly it, Madison becomes a target.

That the F-35 project will have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income people, people of color, and children. The Air Force has admitted this in its own Environmental Impact Statement.

That there will be an expected 135% increase in CO2 emissions. Long-term exposure to CO2 creates breathing complications and respiratory illness, decreased cognitive decision making and problem-solving, and heart disease.

That Truax Field will require more PFAS and chemicals to put out an F-35 fire, compromising the safety of Madison’s drinking water, which is already severely, and possibly irreversibly, contaminated.

That this project will cost taxpayers $1.7 trillion over its lifetime, and more than $30,000 per hour to fly one F-35.

Therefore, with all these concerns in mind, we call on you, our senator, to reverse your support of the deployment of the F-35 at Truax Field. We also ask that you pursue a new mission for the Air National Guard at Truax, one that aligns with our humane values of peace, equity, sustainability and overall concern for the health and security of our residents.