“Public education is truly a matter of public good” – Baltimore Sun
The University of Maryland is working with an international aid group to temporarily house 25 Afghan refugees at its College Park campus, officials said Tuesday.
The families, each consisting of at least seven members, will begin settling on campus over the next few weeks and will stay there for up to a year, officials said. Among the arrivals are people on “humanitarian parole” who were evacuated as part of Operation Allies Welcome – an effort by the Biden administration to resettle Afghans who worked alongside US personnel – and those who are persecuted in Afghanistan because of their work as interpreters, drivers or cultural advisers.
“The University of Maryland is part of a global community, and when we have the opportunity to support humanity, we embrace it,” Darryll J. Pines, president of the university, said in a statement. “We look forward to providing on-campus housing and being good neighbors to Afghan families. They are allies of the United States who have braved a terrifying situation, and we are pleased to be able to offer them a welcoming community as they seek permanent housing.
University officials declined to say where exactly the families would be staying, citing security concerns. Arriving families include infants and teenagers, officials said.
This week, the university offered a welcome meal to Afghans and provided them with basic foods such as beans and cooking oil, officials said. The school’s library system assembles a collection of bilingual books to deliver to families, along with snacks, toys, and kitchen items.
U-Md. hosts evacuees through a partnership with the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid group. The organization will help families find permanent housing, employment, education, counseling and social services.
Thousands of Afghans have arrived in the Washington area since August, when the United States withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan and the country’s government fell to the Taliban. But in the months since the Afghans arrived, overwhelmed resettlement groups have struggled to find many families permanent and affordable housing.
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The aid group has come under fire this year after several Afghan families in the organization’s care said they spent months in a hotel outside Baltimore. Some families have complained that the organization has been unable to find them permanent accommodation in safe neighborhoods, according to community activists.
The organization said in January it had doubled its staff in Baltimore to meet demand for services.
As Afghans continue to settle across the region, U-Md. officials said they planned to take in more refugees.
“Public education is really about the public good,” said Patty Perillo, the school’s vice president for student affairs. “We are creating the model here in Maryland. We are building the structure and systems so others can carry on, helping many more refugees in need.
Elsewhere in the country, other campuses have also extended their support to evacuees. Eastern Michigan University announced plans in December to house a dozen refugee families in its on-campus apartments. The University of Tulsa has announced that it will offer two scholarships to Afghan students.
The College Park development comes as the United States prepares to take in up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who were displaced by the Russian invasion. Perillo said the campus is looking for ways to provide assistance to Ukrainian students and scholars.
U-Md. hosts 4,274 international students, most of whom are from China and India, according to fall 2021 campus data. Ukraine and Afghanistan each have fewer than 20 students on campus.