Miles donation provides flights for Afghan refugees

The campaign, which began with ordinary people donating frequent flyer miles, has raised enough in two months to provide 40,000 flights for refugees from Afghanistan, and organizers and the White House are looking to nearly double that number.

About 3,200 flights with donated miles have already moved Afghans from temporary housing on US military bases to new homes across the United States, according to the organizers.

The companies have made half the contributions so far, mostly in tickets donated by the airlines.

The campaign is organized by Welcome.US and Miles4Migrants, a group founded in 2016 that uses donated miles and credit card points to help refugees. The group saw support for refugees fleeing Afghanistan in August, as the US military withdrew and handed the country over to the Taliban, and began talking to other nonprofits about help.

“Government resources are limited, and we knew the American people wanted to support the Afghans who arrived and help them find safe homes,” said Miles Group co-founder Andy Friedman. “That’s when we turned to the airlines.”

United Airlines contributed 7,000 flights and American Airlines donated 6,000. Organizers say smaller contributions came from Delta, JetBlue, Alaska, Frontier, Air Canada, aircraft maker Boeing and the Tripadvisor charity.

Individuals donated enough miles and credit card points to cover 20,000 trips, according to the organizers.

“It is very inspiring to see the American people and American companies come together to welcome our new Afghan neighbors in this way,” said Nazanin Ash, a former State Department official during the Bush and Obama administrations and now CEO of Welcome.US. A new non-profit coalition is trying to generate private sector support for incoming Afghans.

Two Afghan refugees stand in a field watching a football match in Ft.  McCoy US Army base, with the leftmost person's arm over the other's shoulder.
About 9,000 refugees have resettled in the United States, and more are to come.
Barbara Davidson/Paul via AP

The organizers are looking to raise enough additional donations to pay another 30,000 rides. Organizers say using the donated miles and cash to pay for travel will provide government assistance to refugees for housing and other services.

Historically, evacuees usually paid for their travel themselves. Former Delaware Governor Jack Markle, who is President Joe Biden’s main person in helping Afghan refugees and is also Biden, said Ambassador candidate Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to Markle, about 9,000 Afghans have been resettled in the United States, about 53,000 live in temporary housing at military bases in the United States, another 3,700 will come in the next 10 days from bases in Europe and the Middle East, and up to 30,000 more. It’s expected to arrive within the next year or so, a number that includes people still in Afghanistan.

Military aircraft were used to evacuate Afghans from a chaotic scene at Kabul’s main airport. The airlines then flew them from bases in Europe and the Middle East to the United States under contracts with the federal government

Veterans’ groups and more Hurry up to get Afghan allies Like the interpreters who have served the US military on flights from Kabul since the capital fell to the Taliban. Some do not have the special immigrant visas that were intended for Afghans who have helped Americans during the 20 years of the US military presence, and the US abandoned its embassy in August.

Some former Trump administration officials Working to build an opposition to resettlement in the United States of Afghan refugees, saying they pose a security threat. “How many terrorists are there?” Trump said in a recent statement. The Biden administration says they were screened before entering the United States

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