Refugee groups try to help migrants who have moved to Martha’s Vineyard

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CAMBRIDGE – Abdul Musawer Kazimi says he can empathize with the trauma of newcomers to Martha’s Vineyard, who fled the Taliban during the mass evacuation of Afghanistan just over a year ago. “What they think is different from reality, it’s black and white,” Kazimi said.

Like the migrants, he says he had no idea where he was going when he boarded the plane. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through, it’s a very bad situation,” Kazimi said. “It’s frustrating that I had no idea what was happening and where we were going.”

He came to the United States, he says, with one pair of clothes, $100.00 in his pocket, and is now working with the International Institute of New England to help refugees like himself find jobs.

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The agency’s director, Jeff Thielman, says jobs will be an immediate challenge. “This is an expensive state we live in. They can’t stay without help for long and will need government support somehow to stay here for the long term,” Thielman said.

According to him, this type of transport is highly unusual. Newcomers usually come in in a more organized manner with social service agencies prepared for them. “We receive them at the airport, housing is arranged for them, we help them access benefits, health insurance, enroll children in school,” says Thielman.

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Elias Rosenfeld, who came to the United States from Venezuela at age six, says he can only speculate about why the migrants left their country. “The economy has been a mess for more than three decades,” Rosenfeld said.

But he says Florida, with a large Venezuelan community, was likely part of a plan turned upside down. “Since they were suddenly dropped in Martha’s Vineyard, it’s hard for a lot of people to make a plan, given how quickly they were transferred. No time to flesh that plan out,” Rosenfeld said.

What the future holds for the migrants is another question, and Rosenfeld says they’ve already been through so much. “These families have done everything they can to come to this country, the journey is expensive, it is dangerous and it is not guaranteed,” he said.

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