In a significant accomplishment for international humanitarian aid group IsraAID, 87 Afghan refugees evacuated in October by the Israeli organization were granted permission to begin the process of applying for resettlement in Canada last week.
Alexander Machkevitch, Honorary President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), and EAJC Chairman Aaron G. Frenkel visited the refugees and congratulated them on moving to the next stage of the Canadian asylum process. Machkevitch and Frenkel were instrumental in arranging the refugees’ entry to countries bordering Afghanistan, as part of their evacuation. This was the first time they met with the people they helped rescue. The two leaders were welcomed by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The 87 refugees currently in Albania are part of a larger group that was rescued from Afghanistan in October - in an effort led by IsraAID, together with a number of activists, leaders, and donors, including Sylvan Adams and an anonymous family foundation. A total of 125 vulnerable Afghans, including judges, journalists, TV personalities, cyclists, human rights activists, family members of Afghan diplomats, artists, law enforcement officers, scientists, and others, arrived in Albania, where they were given a temporary asylum. This was made possible following their evacuation from Afghanistan to a neighboring country in a weeks-long collaborative humanitarian effort by IsraAID, with the help of Machkevitch and Frenkel. This followed the initial evacuation of a group of 42 vulnerable Afghans to the UAE in September.
The 87 Afghans are currently living in a refugee center in the Kolaveri resort, near Tirana, Albania's capital. IsraAID has a team on-the-ground in Albania, ensuring the refugees at Kolaveri can meet their ongoing needs for education, mental health support, child protection, community-building, and medical care. The refugee group, supported by IsraAID, recently opened a community school at the center, teaching English, French, vocational skills, photography and more for adults and children of all ages.
"It was an honor to help these people escape from Afghanistan, an honor to save their lives,” noted Machkevitch in an emotional statement. “I have a deep connection to those who seek asylum because of my parents’ story. My father, who was born in Lithuania, and my mother, who was born in Belarus, were evacuated to Kyrgyzstan in 1941 when their home was occupied by the Nazis. As Jews, they faced the threat of death. I am here today because they were rescued.”
“From the moment this group of refugees left Afghanistan to now, IsraAID’s primary focus has been ensuring they have everything they need to embark on the difficult journey of building new lives for themselves,” said Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s CEO. “Witnessing first-hand as the group has built a thriving community in Albania, supported by IsraAID’s team, has been humbling. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our partners and supporters in this ongoing process, and we hope that before long the group will be granted final approval to travel to Canada for long-term resettlement,” he added.
A total of 2,221,828 Afghan refugees were registered in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan by the end of 2021. According to the United Nations’s Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Afghans now make up one of the largest refugee populations in the world.