The United States is building “small cities” on military bases across the country temporarily to house the Afghan evacuees who fled their home country in the final days and weeks of August.
The eight military installations that are being used to house Afghan refugees currently have approximately 25,600 people with a capacity of 36,000, though they are still short of the 50,000 goal, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of Northcom, said during Friday’s briefing.
VanHerck does “not anticipate” that the military will need to use additional bases to reach that threshold.
“We continue to provide culturally appropriate food, water, bedding, religious services, recreational activities, and other services such as transportation from the port of entry to the location of accommodations and some medical services,” he said. “I’m building eight small cities. We’re going to have challenges.”
VanHerck also described a “mayor cell” in place, which he described as how at least one base established an Afghan leader within the “village” to be a point person to help make sure the refugees have what they need.
“We take our military leaders, we put them into the mayor’s cell, and they’re responsible for a specific location, maybe a few dorms, a dorm or two, and they have a counterpart on the Afghan side that would essentially be their equal, if you will, in rank,” the general explained. “This is great because not only does it allow the Afghans to express their concerns or challenges or where they need resources or help, it allows us to also communicate with them through the same process, and they can perpetuate that information.”
Within the bases, families are housed together, while single males and females are housed among each other.
There have also been “a couple” of unaccompanied minors who were evacuated, VanHerck said, noting that those children are handed over to the Department of and Human Services. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also characterized the amount of unaccompanied minors as a “small number” during a Friday briefing.
“Unaccompanied minors do not represent a significant share of arriving Afghan nationals,” a spokesperson for Health and Human Services told the Washington Examiner. “We are working to ensure that Unaccompanied Afghan Minors who are referred to the Office of Refugee and Resettlement (ORR) for processing, unification, or placement are placed with licensed care providers that are able to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. When possible, Unaccompanied Afghan Minors are unified quickly on site or transported to licensed facilities. We will continue to work with our government partners to provide care for all of the children referred to us.”
The tens of thousands of Afghans flown out of Afghanistan in August, before the U.S. withdrew all of its troops, have been taken to the Middle East and Europe, where they are being screened before going on to the U.S. The U.S. European Command spans across Germany, Italy, and Spain.