The 87 Afghan refugees rescued by Israel-based humanitarian organization “IsraAID” last August finally got the opportunity to meet the humanitarian workers who arranged their rescue on Monday as they prepare to begin the process of applying for resettlement in Canada.
They were among the 2,221,828 new Afghan refugees who were registered in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan by the end of 2021 – amid the Taliban’s violent takeover of the country in August after US troops ceased operations in Afghanistan and pulled out troops and diplomatic staff.
The 87 refugees – among them judges, journalists, TV personalities, cyclists, human rights activists, family members of Afghan diplomats, artists, law enforcement officers, scientists and others – are part of a larger group that was rescued from the beleaguered country in October in an effort led by the Israeli humanitarian aid agency NGO. They have been sheltering in a resort near Albania’s capital city of Tirana as they await approval to begin the process of migrating to Canada.
Alexander Machkevitch, honorary president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and EAJC chairman Aaron G. Frenkel – who were instrumental in the rescue effort – visited the refugees and congratulated them on moving to the next stage of the Canadian asylum process, which marked the first time they got to face their rescuers.
"It was an honor to help these people escape from Afghanistan – an honor to save their lives,” Machkevitch said in an emotional statement.
“I have a deep connection to those who seek asylum because of my parents’ story," he said. "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.”
The refugee group, supported by IsraAID, recently opened a community school at the refugee center housing the Afghan refugees, teaching English, French, vocational skills, photography and more to adults and children of all ages.
“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,” IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer said.
“Witnessing first-hand as the group has built a thriving community in Albania, supported by IsraAID’s team, has been humbling," he said. "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.”