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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.

3M’s support for PFAS could cost taxpayers billions of dollars

The failure of manufacturers to report and deal with potential PFAS problems when they learned of them is saddling the companies with mounting legal costs.

Members of a 3M committee at headquarters in Maplewood had two big questions to answer in spring of 1978.

Did studies showing PFAS chemicals were more toxic to animals than 3M thought pose risks to public health and the environment? Or did research that PFAS were collecting in the bodies of 3M workers pose risks to public health and the environment?

If the answer to either or both questions was yes, the 3M Fluorochemicals Technical Review Committee knew it was required to tell the federal government about those risks within 15 days. Instead, confidential meeting minutes show, committee members decided the evidence wasn’t strong enough to warn the government or the public.

Yet the confidential minutes of a second meeting a month later also show the committee “urgently recommended that all reasonable steps be taken immediately to reduce exposure of employees to these compounds.”

These 40-year-old choices, found among tens of thousands of pages of secret documents unsealed by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and a Washington County judge, represented a critical juncture, say public health and environmental advocates.

The failure of 3M and other manufacturers, such as DuPont, to publicly report and deal with potential PFAS problems when they first learned of them is saddling the companies with mounting legal costs because of lawsuits brought by several states and individuals. And it’s about to cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.

3M told the Star Tribune that it has paid “more than $1.2 billion” to treat PFAS pollution. That is a fraction of the $10 billion in taxpayer funds the country’s new bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates for PFAS cleanup. Other proposed PFAS pollution bills in Congress allocate billions more to clean up a mess 3M and other corporations made.

The Department of Defense spent $1.1 billion on PFAS cleanup in 2020 and estimates it will spend $2.1 billion more in 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office. Officials say it will take decades to address the pollution.

University of Michigan Prof. Allen Burton, editor of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, said knowledge that PFAS was accumulating in humans “should have been enough to stop production.”

It wasn’t. 3M and others chose not to tell the public what they knew. They continued using PFAS that, over time, spread to the bodies of most Americans and hundreds of millions around the world. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, do not break down naturally. Instead, they migrate throughout the environment, circulating through surface and groundwaters, soils and air. This results in potentially substantial exposures and increases in fish, wildlife and humans.

And as part of a $671 million lawsuit settlement in 2017, Dupont convened a panel to study a 3M-made PFAS called PFOA. DuPont and Chemours Co., which produced Teflon in Parkersburg, W.Va., using the 3M product, denied any wrongdoing. However, Dupont’s panel concluded that PFOA was likely linked to kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, and hypertension during pregnancy for people living around the Teflon plant.

The FDA says the data are “inadequate to evaluate cancer effects associated with PFBS exposure,” referring to one of the chemicals in the PFOA class. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has classified PFOA as possibly carcinogenic.

‘Defend our record’

To this day, 3M stands by its handling of PFAS. The company still argues that PFAS are safe to humans in the levels that exist in the environment. The company says it still makes and uses some of the fluorochemicals “to help make innovations like lifesaving medical devices and low-emission vehicles possible.”

“3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS … and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship,” the company said in June.

PFAS are used in hundreds of everyday products from waterproof clothing and Teflon cookware to food packaging and firefighting foam. It took until the early 2000s for the public to begin to learn that these chemicals also had major problems. By then, PFAS had polluted municipal water systems, groundwater, landfills and military bases at thousands of sites across America. For instance, a new report shows PFAS groundwater pollution at an Air National Guard base near Duluth.

“Cleaning up PFAS contamination is a Biden-Harris administration priority,” an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokeswoman told the Star Tribune in an e-mail. “The administration is currently discussing options for moving forward with the designation of PFOA and PFOS as a hazardous substance.”

After the EPA under former President Donald Trump strongly opposed a major PFAS regulation bill, new EPA chief Michael Regan has created a new Council on PFAS and is “evaluating the best available science to establish” enforceable maximum contaminant levels for PFOA and PFOS, the most toxic kinds of PFAS, in drinking water, the spokeswoman said.

States are also exploring legislation and regulations. This spring, the Minnesota Legislature banned PFAS from food packaging by 2024.

“There is a substantial amount of peer-reviewed literature documenting adverse effects, which is why there is [now] so much regulatory activity,” Burton said. “I think 3M is on the hook for a lot in this international catastrophe.”

In June, Joanne Stanton told a U.S. Senate committee that she is one of three women on the same street in Warminster, Pa., with a child who developed cancerous brain tumors containing embryonic tissue. Stanton told the Star Tribune that all the mothers and children grew up drinking water heavily polluted with PFAS used in firefighting foam at two nearby military bases.

Research shows that PFAS can cross the placenta from mother to fetus, said Jamie DeWitt, a PFAS researcher at East Carolina University. Breast-feeding babies can also ingest PFAS from their mothers, Harvard epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean said.