In mid-August, as thousands were clamoring to escape the chaos in Afghanistan, HIAS received an urgent request from officials at The New York Times.
The news outlet wanted to know if it would be possible to provide support for their current and former Afghan workers and their families who were being evacuated to Mexico City. After quickly working out an agreement between the two organizations, a group of eight HIAS Mexico staff deployed from the north of the country to Mexico City to prepare for the arriving evacuees.
The Times was able to get 114 Afghans to Mexico where authorities had agreed to receive them. After meeting the group at the airport, HIAS Mexico staff provided support at a secure location, food and medical care, COVID tests, and other basic needs. Over the following days they conducted confidential intake interviews and ran orientation and information sessions.
“We are grateful to HIAS Mexico and their expert team for providing timely support and critical resources to our group of Afghan evacuees during their stay in Mexico City,” said Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy managing editor for The New York Times.
On Tuesday, the group flew to Texas where Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will be offering resettlement services in the U.S.
“This was an unusual situation,” said Rachel Levitan, HIAS’ vice president for international programs. “But when The Times reached out to us, we knew that we had to help. Journalists are a major target for the Taliban, and we’re thankful the paper put their trust in us to respond.”
The Afghans were exhausted, but interested in the history of the area, according to Blanca Lomeli, HIAS Mexico’s country director. There were some moments of normalcy, as HIAS organized a tour of the city and playgroups for the children.
“This way they had a chance to be happy and enjoy the moment,” Lomeli said.
Many people expressed their gratitude, she added.
“We are finally living,” one Afghan man told HIAS staff. “What we had before was not life.”
HIAS is currently assisting journalists in Mexico City from a number of other news outlets.