Tampa Bay organizations preparing to resettle Afghan refugees

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – The Tampa City Council unanimously approved a resolution at Thursday’s meeting in support of welcoming Afghan refugees.

Local religious, social services, and legal organizations stand ready to help Afghans fleeing the crisis in their homeland start a new life in Tampa. 

“It’s a terrifying situation these people are running for their lives,” said Bob Sichta, an immigration attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida.

Sichta described for 8 On Your Side how nine relatives of an Afghan family living in Tampa made it out of Kabul alive.  

“This was an absolute miracle,” Sichta said. “They ended up going through the United Kingdom air base, which is a safe place to go, somehow getting over to the U.S. airfield. I won’t go into more details than that. People dying next to them along the way. Can you imagine bringing small children with you and your small children witnessing people dying next to them because of the Taliban?”

The Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services are already helping six people who arrived from Afghanistan in June.

“We have always had our arms open to refugees who come to this community,” said Sylvia Acevedo, the Gulf Coast JFCS director of refugee and employment services.

Radiant Hands is another non-profit that provides refugees with immediate needs like food and housing.

Executive Director Ghadir Kassab told the Tampa City Council has assisted 125 people from Afghanistan who live in the Tampa area.

“Our team will be ready to assist new families by offering integration, language assistance,” Kassab said, in anticipation, more Afghan refugees will arrive in the coming weeks.

Afghan-American Wahid Abawi has called Tampa home for 20 years. He voiced support for the council’s resolution on Afghan refugees during public comment.

“Those Afghans they do deserve, they didn’t only fight for Afghanistan,” he said, “but they also fought for the people of the United States making sure they translate correctly and properly.”

Attorney Sichta is also a Vietnam War Veteran. He said the end to the two-decade war in Afghanistan is worse than the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, but he only had praise from the U.S. service members on the ground in Kabul working to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans.

“They are our heroes,” he said. “The idea that they’re getting thousands of people out a day, organizing this whole thing from scratch since January is amazing. You can’t just push a button and do this stuff. It takes time. It takes logistics. It takes literally dodging bullets.”

More than a dozen U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghans were killed by a suicide bombing Thursday outside of the Kabul airport.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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