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Afghan refugees saved by Israelis finally meet their rescuers

87 Afghanis, part of larger group rescued in October in an effort led by IsraAID, reside in Albania as they await resettlement in Canada

Afghan refugees meet Alexander Machkevitch, honorary president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), and EAJC Chairman Aaron G. Frenkel. (IsraAID)
Afghan refugees meet Alexander Machkevitch, honorary president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), and EAJC Chairman Aaron G. Frenkel. (IsraAID)

A group of Afghan refugees, rescued by Israel-based humanitarian group IsraAID in October, finally got the chance to meet their rescuers on Monday as they prepared to begin the process of resettlement in Canada.

The group were among the 2,221,828 Afghan refugees registered in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan by the end of 2021 following the Taliban’s violent takeover of Afghanistan in August after US forces withdrew from the country.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Afghans now make up one of the largest refugee populations in the world.

The 87 refugees currently residing in Albania are part of a larger group that was rescued from Afghanistan in October in an effort led by IsraAID together with a number of activists, leaders, and donors, including Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams.

Among them are judges, journalists, TV personalities, cyclists, human rights activists, family members of Afghan diplomats, artists, law enforcement officers and scientists.

They have been sheltering in a resort near Albania’s capital city of Tirana as they await approval to begin the process of migrating to Canada.

IsraAID workers meet with the 87 Afghan refugees they helped rescue in Albania. (IsraAID)

Alexander Machkevitch, honorary president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC) and EAJC chairman Aaron G. Frenkel – who were instrumental in the rescue effort – visited the refugees and congratulated them on moving to the next stage of the Canadian asylum process

“It was an honor to help these people escape from Afghanistan, an honor to save their lives,” said Machkevitch, according to a statement.

“I have a deep connection to those who seek asylum because of my parents’ story. My father, who was born in Lithuania, and my mother, who was born in Belarus, were evacuated to Kyrgyzstan in 1941 when their home was occupied by the Nazis. As Jews, they faced the threat of death. I am here today because they were rescued.”

The community school that was opened by the refugees at the center. (IsraAID)

The refugee group, supported by IsraAID, recently opened a community school at the refugee center housing the Afghan refugees, teaching English, French, vocational skills, photography and more to adults and children.

“From the moment this group of refugees left Afghanistan to now, IsraAID’s primary focus has been ensuring they have everything they need to embark on the difficult journey of building new lives for themselves,” said Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s CEO.

“Witnessing first-hand as the group has built a thriving community in Albania, supported by IsraAID’s team, has been humbling. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our partners and supporters in this ongoing process, and we hope that before long the group will be granted final approval to travel to Canada for long-term resettlement,” he added.

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