What Can Macalester Do About the Afghan Refugee Crisis?

What Can Macalester Do About the Afghan Refugee Crisis?

Yigit Kahyaoglu, Opinion Editor

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan marks the end of a 20-year-long war with hundreds of thousands of casualties. What is left is an increasingly unstable country with an extremist group rising to authority. As a result, many Afghans have been forced to flee from their country. There are already more than two million Afghan refugees worldwide, with the majority residing in Pakistan, Iran and Germany. The UN predicts up to half a million more Afghans fleeing their country by the end of the year, as a result of the Taliban’s recent rise to power.

Thousands of people are currently fleeing Afghanistan to survive. Being a refugee is difficult. Refugees need (at least temporary) places to live, but also much more than that. They need communities and institutions that support them, both in order to recover from the trauma of seeing the destruction of their country, but also in order to make sure that they can live full, secure and flourishing lives — as is the right of every human being.

What can Macalester do to help? A lot of the people who are fleeing from Afghanistan are students, academics and intellectuals. Macalester, as an academic institution, is in a position to host such people.  Macalester’s welcoming of Afghan students and scholars would expand and enrich our community, but our duty goes beyond this: as an institution that proudly upholds internationalism and civic engagement as core values, we have a moral obligation to welcome Afghan refugees in our community, insofar as we are truly committed to our values.

 In global crises like these, communities and institutions have an obligation to help as many people as they can, to the extent that their resources allow. As a respected higher education institution with a large endowment, Macalester is in a resourceful position. Moreover, colleges and universities specifically can and must take a lot of initiative due to their structures as intellectual hubs. Colleges and universities are home to academics, students, artists and activists; these are some of the people who are the most at risk whenever an authoritarian regime takes charge in a country. As a result of this demographic structure, colleges and universities provide communities that are potentially the most inclusive for international intellectuals who are at risk. As such, Macalester must rise to the occasion, and join other institutions of higher education in creating scholarships for Afghan students and hiring Afghan academics and intellectuals. 

The administration has already taken some good steps. Macalester is a signatory to the petition sent to Antony Blinken by Scholars at Risk (SAR), which urges the state department to waive certain requirements for the immigration process from Afghan scholars to be able to safely enter the country, among other things. I am proud to see that Macalester has been a part of this initiative. However, this petition should not be the end, but rather the start, of our efforts to help Afghan refugees.

So what can Macalester do this year? We can hire more Afghan scholars and artists. We can admit more students from Afghanistan. Additionally, we can join other schools and create scholarships specifically designed for at-risk Afghan students. Macalester has plenty of resources and it is our obligation as an institution to help those in need.