Vietnamese Americans are opening their doors, offering support to Afghan refugees

Across the United States, Vietnamese communities have been opening their doors to refugees from Afghanistan, seeing themselves in the new arrivals.

An unlikely bond: In cities like Philadelphia and Seattle, Vietnamese landlords, business owners, artists and neighbors have been offering support to refugees in whatever way they can, remembering their own plights when arriving from Vietnam in the late 1970s.

  • Since Aug. 2021, the U.S. has been accepting thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, with these families and individuals heading to all four corners of the nation. 
  • Many of the new arrivals have no money or personal belongings with them, having desperately rushed onto flights leaving their home country after the Taliban officially took over.
  • To many Vietnamese Americans, the images of Afghans rushing onto packed planes greatly resemble their own experiences leaving Saigon on helicopters with nothing but pocket change. Many have also drawn parallels between the failures of the Vietnam War and the war in Afghanistan.
  • “We were them 40 years ago,” Thuy Do, a doctor residing in Seattle, told the Associated Press.
  • Nonprofit organizations like Viets for Afghans have popped up since August, offering assistance with food, housing, legal work and cultural assimilation. Many Vietnamese Americans have even become host families for Afghan refugees.
  • Oregon House Representative Khanh Pham (D-46), a daughter of refugees, has been pushing for more governmental support of refugees and the nonprofits that assist them with her colleague, Kayse Jama, a former refugee himself.
  • “My family’s experience was a mix of both incredible generosity as well as some of the same discrimination and fear mongering against refugees that we see today,” Pham said.

Ongoing evacuations: Although the Taliban has started cracking down on evacuations from the country, refugees arrive across North America, Europe and Asia daily.

  • The sheer number of arrivals has overwhelmed many humanitarian organizations that do not have the funds or manpower to assist so many new arrivals.
  • Refugees in some countries like Indonesia have begun protesting the poor conditions in which they are kept, asking that organizations like the United Nations work faster to help refugees, especially those who are sick.
  • The majority of Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan’s neighboring nations, though these refugees are usually undocumented and face the threat of deportation.

Featured Image via PBS NewsHour (left), Associated Press (right)

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