ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — Not even an hour east on I-90 from the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, thousands of Afghan nationals are being held at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. With little time to flee their home country, many Afghan refugees only came with the clothing on their backs.
“Currently we have staff in Fort McCoy helping the Afghans there,” said Kristina Hammell, a manager for Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota.
Hammell’s organization is doing everything it can to provide aid to the refugees.
“Addressing different needs, maybe it’s clothing needs, maybe it’s activities for children,” Hammell said. “This is a larger number of people coming here very quickly, and it’s changing daily on how things are happening.”
Hammell says this instance is much different from years past, as these refugees had not received the same clearance they usually get when seeking asylum.
“This is unique because refugees are generally coming from overseas. They’ve already completed the process and been issued refugee status. Then we come to them. We greet them at the airport and help them resettle into the community. This is different because the process is happening in these various places like Fort McCoy,” said Hammell.
Mayo Clinic Healthcare System is also aiding in the refugee efforts, providing care to the Afghans as needed.
“Our Sparta location is in close proximity to Fort McCoy, so we partner with them consistently to show that we’re meeting healthcare needs in the community,” said Tia Meyer, a Mayo Clinic operations administrator.
Mayo Clinic has many operations going at once.
“We are working through transportation, registration, physicians and staff are seeing the patients as they arrive at our hospitals,” said Meyer. “Serving the Afghan guests that are arriving at Fort McCoy aligns very well with our mission and our values and humanitarian efforts.”