Afghans Wait in a New Jersey ‘Tent City' to Start a New Life

They call it Liberty Village, a tent city that grew almost overnight to where it is now has a population larger than half of the towns in New Jersey.

© Bryan Anselm for The New York Times Soaking skewers for kebabs in advance of a Friday night barbecue for Afghans and U.S. military personnel at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

It fills an expansive field at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a military installation in central New Jersey where about 8,500 Afghans displaced by the longest war in U.S. history are temporarily living.

The New Jersey base is one of eight in the United States where tens of thousands of Afghans who evacuated from Kabul in a frenzied rush last month are being housed as health and security screenings are completed and inoculations against various diseases take hold.

© Bryan Anselm for The New York Times Sikandar Khan, 29, leads a refugee aid group that held a dance party at the base for its temporary residents. “It’s part of the morale-boosting campaign,” he said.

Sign up for The Morning newsletter from The New York Times

The new arrivals will eventually be moved to communities across the country in one of the largest American resettlement efforts in decades. About 3,000 are expected to find permanent homes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

© Bryan Anselm for The New York Times Jahed Ahmad, center, at a mosque in Paterson, where he joked with volunteers as they prepared a meat marinade to be used for the Friday night barbecue.

For now, most of them are simply waiting to take the next step in their odyssey.

The families at the base are living in enormous, air-conditioned tents that each can hold up to 1,000 people, said Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who recently toured the base with Senator Cory Booker, his fellow Democrat from the state.

Mr. Menendez, the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said the eventual goal was for about 250 people to move off the base a week.

Some evacuees may remain on the base and in limbo for up to a year, according to a military report that assessed everything from the expected increase in wastewater and generator usage there to how the population surge may affect a threatened bat species that lives in the area.

Aid organizations have been preparing for weeks to meet what they expect will be an extraordinary demand for apartment space, English language classes and job-placement services once the families begin to leave the base in larger numbers.

Welcome Home Jersey City, a nonprofit resettlement agency, has set up temporary lodging in a church rectory and is getting ready to move a family of six into a three-bedroom apartment next week. A local dentist volunteered to pay the family’s rent for a year, said Alain Mentha, the director of Welcome Home, which is based in Jersey City.

Mr. Mentha’s group is also planning for the arrival of another family in early October.

“This trickle,” he said, “is going to start turning into a steady stream of need.”

The vast military base southeast of Trenton has experience welcoming refugees. In 1999, about 4,000 former residents of Kosovo took shelter there after fleeing fighting in the Balkans.

Scott Timberman, the mayor of Wrightstown, a small borough at one end of the base, which stretches 20 miles from west to east, said there were no outward signs that a major resettlement effort was underway next door.

“We haven’t heard a thing — haven’t seen them,” Mr. Timberman said about the base’s new residents. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Sikandar Khan, the director of Global Emergency Response and Assistance, a nonprofit in Paterson, has been delivering supplies and providing entertainment to the Afghans on the base.

Town hall-style meetings are held regularly at the camp, which has been divided into three villages. Each village has its own assigned mayor and deputy mayor, said Mr. Khan, who said he had spent a year working as a private contractor assisting U.S. Special Forces in southern Afghanistan and is fluent in Pashto.

Last Sunday, he said, his all-volunteer aid group held a five-hour dance party at the base with a D.J. who played music in English, Dari and Pashto. On Friday evening, the group held an outdoor barbecue for 10,000 Afghans and military officials replete with 6,000 pounds of grilled lamb, beef and chicken.

“It’s part of the morale-boosting campaign of ours,” Mr. Khan said. “Play music. Let them smell the food.”

“These are folks who went through quite a journey to get here,” he added of the Afghans, many of whom helped the United States during the war and were evacuated as the Taliban took control of their country, just before American troops left before an Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden.

Journalists have not been allowed onto the base. But workers with several nongovernmental aid agencies have been there daily. New Jersey’s health and military affairs departments have also been providing support as part of a task force established by Gov. Philip D. Murphy.

Children spend their time playing soccer or volleyball and doing crafts, visitors said. Some adults participate in language lessons. One tent serves as a mosque, with sections for men and women to worship separately.

“What I got as I was walking around was a sense of gratitude,” Mr. Menendez said.

Three resettlement agencies will be responsible for working with smaller community organizations to find permanent homes in New Jersey for roughly 535 people, aides to Mr. Murphy said.

“By and large, we’ve had nothing but an outpouring of real support,” said Avigail Ziv, the executive director for New York and New Jersey at one of the resettlement agencies, the International Rescue Committee. Interfaith RISE in Highland Park and Church World Service in Jersey City will also help to resettle the newly arrived Afghans.

Donations of clothing and diapers and offers of translation services have flooded in. An intake form created to manage the overwhelming level of interest expressed by would-be volunteers says that donations to the base are “at capacity” and that no more can be accepted.

But the need for specific goods remains. Mr. Khan said he had recently been asked for suitcases and blankets as well as five barber’s chairs to accommodate the thousands of people getting hair cuts. Gift cards that can be used to buy cigarettes on the base are coveted, he added, because many of the men there now are addicted to nicotine.

Finding suitable and affordable housing for people without jobs or extensive documentation is perhaps the biggest looming challenge, several resettlement officials said.

“We can’t do this alone,” Ms. Ziv said. “We really need community support.”

The affordable housing market is already severely limited, and competition for apartments among renters displaced during the pandemic — as well as those in need of temporary lodging after a deadly Sept. 1 storm flooded the region — is steep.

J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth, a large and diverse city where the International Rescue Committee has offices, asked the group not to resettle Afghans there because officials were still seeking housing for 400 residents who had to evacuate after Hurricane Ida hit.

“Though we would like to welcome them,” Mr. Bollwage wrote on Twitter, “now is not the best choice.”

Liesa Watson and her husband, Nader Rezai, own a two-family rental property near Journal Square in Jersey City. When Ms. Watson heard about the Afghans arriving at the military base, she told Welcome Home that she had a three-bedroom unit available and would be willing to lease it at slightly less than market rate.

Her husband, a realtor, arrived in the United States from Iran as a child, and she said the couple was sympathetic to the struggle of new immigrants.

“I see something I can do something about,” she said. “I figured, ‘Let me put my toe in the water.’ ”

The Afghan family moving into the apartment has four children ages 5 to 14, all of whom speak English. They arrived in the United States on Aug. 23 after a weeklong journey that took them through Bahrain and Bulgaria, according to the children’s 37-year-old father, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for the safety of relatives still living in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

He is a banker who said he had worked indirectly with U.S. agencies; his wife is a schoolteacher. They are eager, he said, to get the clearance they need to start looking for permanent work.

“There will clearly be open doors for many of these newcomers,” Mr. Menendez said.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Opinion: Nick Rolovich's exit at Washington State leaves football program in disarray

When Nick Rolovich walked out of the Washington State football building Monday night, embarking on a new life of anti-vaccine martyrdom, he left behind more than a $3 million per ... Read more »

Lukaku is 'mentally tired', says Chelsea boss Tuchel

Romelu Lukaku is mentally tired after being “overplayed”, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said on Tuesday, as the club’s record signing seeks to end his frustrating goal drought. © JUSTIN TALLIS ... Read more »

Manchester City vs. Club Brugge odds, picks, how to watch, live stream: UEFA Champions League bets for Oct. 19

Manchester City has played tough through a recent gauntlet of tough matches between its English Premier League and UEFA Champions League fixtures. The Sky Blues have another big match on ... Read more »

Predicting the 2021-22 Western Conference standings, playoffs, Finals

© Provided by NBC Sports After a summer of bold moves such as bringing in Russell Westbrook, the Lakers are grabbing headlines and are the betting favorite to be the ... Read more »

Zach Ertz Thanks Eagles Fans With Full-Page Ad in Philadelphia Inquirer

© Provided by Sports Illustrated Zach Ertz made sure to show his appreciation for the Philly fans after being dealt to Arizona on Oct. 15. View the original article to ... Read more »

Habsent Minded: Suzuki's extension, Bergevin rumours headline busy week

The Montreal Canadiens started their 2021-22 season this week, but their three games weren’t even the headlining event of their opening week. That honour went to Nick Suzuki’s eight-year contract ... Read more »

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Manchester United boss says Jamie Carragher criticisms will have no effect on him

Carragher suggested Man Utd boss Solskjaer was not at the level of other managers towards the top of the Premier League; watch Man Utd vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm Read more »

Drone operator will try to rescue dogs from Spanish volcano

© Reuters/LA PALMA LOCAL GOVERMENT / VOLCA Dogs stranded on ash-covered earth surrounded by volcanic lava in Todoque area By Guillermo Martinez LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – A Spanish drone ... Read more »

Americans warned against travel to Singapore due to 'very high level of COVID-19'

© Getty Images Americans warned against travel to Singapore due to ‘very high level of COVID-19’ The U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning ... Read more »

Nelayan cari kerang ditemui lemas

© Provided by Sinar Harian LUMUT – Seorang nelayan ditemukan lemas selepas dipercayai terjatuh ketika mencari kerang di Kuala Panchor, Pantai Remis di sini pada Selasa. Dalam kejadian kira-kira jam ... Read more »

Vacation Outfit Inspo From The Best Of Bollywood Fashionistas

We all dream of going on that perfect vacation where we get clicked with awesome backdrops and flawless outfits, but what really happens is, that when the time comes to ... Read more »

Alia Bhatt celebrates 'virtual wala love' with Sidharth, Varun as 'SOTY' clocks 9 years

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: Actors Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra have won many hearts with their Bollywood debut ‘Student of the Year’, which on Tuesday, ... Read more »

5 things to do with your pumpkins after Halloween

Halloween pumpkins create a lot of waste, with millions of tonnes of usable gourds sent to landfills annually. Here are five things you can do with pumpkins. 1. MAKE A ... Read more »

Ecuador's president declares 60-day state of emergency over rising crime

By Alexandra Valencia © Reuters/POOL FILE PHOTO: 76th Session of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso late on Monday declared ... Read more »

US regulators lay out plan for over-the-counter hearing aids

WASHINGTON (AP) — Health regulators on Tuesday unveiled their proposal to allow Americans to buy hearing aids without a prescription, a long-awaited move intended to make the devices more accessible ... Read more »

PIP back payments: Who's eligible to claim up to £15,000 from DWP after rule change and how to apply

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants could be eligible to claim up to £15,000, following a rule change. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced plans to change the process ... Read more »

Brian Laundrie lookalike claims US Marshals burst into hotel room

U.S. Marshals allegedly broke into the hotel room of an Ithaca, New York, man bearing a resemblance to Brian Laundrie, the missing fiance and traveling partner to Gabby Petito, who ... Read more »

The first-ever bitcoin futures ETF rises 5% in trading debut after SEC declines to intervene

© Dado Ruvic/Reuters Bitcoin. Dado Ruvic/Reuters The first-ever bitcoin futures ETF began trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF tracks bitcoin futures rather than ... Read more »

China central bank will emphasize regulation, development of internet finance sector -state media

BEIJING (Reuters) -China will emphasize both the regulation and development of the internet finance sector, state television quoted Guo Shuqing, Communist party chief of the People’s Bank of China, as ... Read more »

Two dead, 450 arrested in Chile protest violence

Two people died, 56 were injured and 450 arrested as clashes broke out in Chile during mass street protests to mark the second anniversary of a social uprising, police said ... Read more »

Families of Parkland mass shooting victims reach $25 million settlement with school district

The families of the victims of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead have reached a $25 million settlement with the local school district. ... Read more »

London needs up to 60,000 electric car charge points by 2030 - TfL

© PA Wire Electric car charging – London London may need up to 60,000 electric vehicle charging points by 2030 to support the shift to greener transport, TfL has revealed. ... Read more »

Gang reportedly demands $17 million in exchange for kidnapped missionaries in Haiti

An armed gang is demanding a $17 million ransom for the group of American and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. © ... Read more »

Woman reaches plea deal after daughter found dead amid filth

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — A 50-year-old Louisiana woman has accepted a 50-year sentence as part of a plea agreement in the death of her 25-year-old disabled daughter, who died dehydrated ... Read more »

Car carrying migrants crashes in Greece; 1 dead, 9 injured

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A vehicle carrying 10 migrants hoping to head from Greece north into the Balkans crashed in northern Greece overnight, leaving one person dead and nine injured, ... Read more »

How a tiny Lancashire village became the UK's hottest culinary destination

Guests now travel from all over Britain and further afield to visit Lancashire‘s foodie scene – Getty In 2017, chef Mark Birchall finally opened his own restaurant. At the time ... Read more »

US stocks climb as markets strive for 5-day win streak on the back of strong corporate earnings

© Xinhua/Wang Ying/Getty Images Xinhua/Wang Ying/Getty Images US stocks surged on Tuesday as third-quarter earnings continued to beat expectations. The S&P 500 is on track for a 5-day win streak ... Read more »

Heat pump grants: Boiler upgrade scheme will see households able to apply for £5,000 grant to replace gas boilers

Households will be able to apply for a £5,000 grant to swap their gas boiler for a low-carbon heat pump, as part of government plans to cut emissions. The government ... Read more »

Six-hour ambulance waits to be ‘commonplace' this winter, paramedic warns

Patients waiting at least six hours for an ambulance will be “commonplace” this winter, a paramedic has warned. The UK faces a “bleak” few months amid reports of increasing waits ... Read more »

Yankees sign manager Aaron Boone to three-year deal

The New York Yankees made multiple changes to their coaching staff last week, but they are sticking with their manager. © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports New York Yankees manager Aaron ... Read more »

Germany's RWE expects to spend $21 billion in Britain by 2030

© Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the German power supplier RWE, which plans to break up subsidiary Innogy and share its assets with rival E.ON, is pictured in ... Read more »

Energy price cap not working, says power boss

© Getty Images The boss of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola has told the BBC the UK’s energy price cap is not working and the country is now paying the price. ... Read more »

Explainer-Net zero: just patching over emissions or path for saving planet?

© Reuters/Matthew Childs FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above a factory at sunset in Rugby By Shadia Nasralla and Susanna Twidale LONDON (Reuters) – More than 190 countries committed in 2015 ... Read more »

Full return to offices ‘won't be possible' until next Spring, says Varadkar

© Provided by Extra.ie Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that a full return to offices across the country won’t be possible until Spring of 2022. It was confirmed at a ... Read more »

FDA proposes over-the-counter hearing aids for Americans

© Reuters/Andrew Kelly FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of FDA headquarters in White Oak, Maryland (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday proposed creation of a ... Read more »

French troops shoot and kill woman while on anti-jihadist patrol in Mali

© Pascal Guyot, AFP (illustration) The French army said Tuesday its troops shot dead a woman while conducting an anti-jihadist reconnaissance operation with Malian soldiers in the west African country, ... Read more »

Extra €1billion set to be lent to homebuyers in 2022

© Provided by Extra.ie Almost an extra €1billion will be lent to homebuyers in 2022 as a sharp increase in house building will see the market rebound, a financial forecast ... Read more »

Boris Johnson announces £1billion boost for electric car revolution

© Getty Images BorisJiohnson1910v2 Boris Johnson has unveiled a £1 billion electric car revolution in his flagship “net zero” strategy as he sought to inject momentum into the Cop26 summit. ... Read more »

Janhvi Kapoor to Ananya Panday: 5 Fashion trends that Gen Z is bringing back

From corsets to bucket hats, Gen Z has been borrowing trends from across decades and has managed to skip the fashion disaster phase. There are certain trends that resemble the ... Read more »

Diana Penty And Radhika Madan's Desi Looks From 'Shiddat' Are Truly Gorgeous For Weddings

Diana Penty and Radhika Madan’s charming bridal beauty looks in Shiddat are just the understated yet glamorous appearances we needed for inspiration during this wedding and festive season. So here ... Read more »