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333 Afghan refugees arrive in Calgary, 1,800 more expected by June

As part of Canada’s promise to help 40,000 Afghan refugees, another charter flight landed in Calgary on Thursday.

333 people who escaped Afghanistan as the Taliban took over were greeted at the Calgary International Airport around noon.

Among those was Sughra Saadat, a human-rights advocate, and spokesperson for the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan.

She said that while she’s grateful to be here in Canada, she’s still concerned for those still in Afghanistan.

“Still having my family back home, it’s a [difficult] thing for me,” said Saadat. “I’m very stressed while trying to overcome all the challenges.”

One of those challenges is finding a place to stay in Calgary as she works on getting paperwork and finances set up.

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society helps with initial housing and has been getting support from short-term rental company Airbnb.

Recently, AirBnb announced that it had reached its goal of providing 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide with free, temporary housing.

Around 160 of those families are here in Canada with the most popular cities being Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Lethbridge.

AirBnb’s public policy expert Nathan Rotman said the housing helps provide a sense of belonging for those in need.

“[They] come into a community like Calgary and live in a neighbourhood with a home and a kitchen where they can eat the food that they grew up with,” said Rotman. “It has a sense of home.”

Rotman said the company will now be looking at helping another 20,000 refugees in the coming months.

CCIS’s CEO Fariborz Birjandian said that type of support will be needed since more flights are expected to arrive before the summer.

“In the next two to three months, we’re probably looking at about 1,800 people at least coming to Calgary,” said Birjandian.

He adds the focus will be on both those just arriving to Calgary as well as those who have been here for months.

“They are extremely grateful,” said Birjandian. “It’s a safe place for themselves and children. But again, they are all worried about what’s happening in Afghanistan, especially what’s happened to their families.”

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