After working for several months to help many families from Afghanistan resettle in the Quad Cities, Laura Fontaine hasn’t yet gotten the go-ahead to do similar work for Ukrainian refugees.

“Right now, we have not gotten any guidance from the State Department on numbers or timelines on anything,” the World Relief Quad Cities executive director said of the 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees, who have fled their country since the Feb. 24 start of the Russian invasion.

Laura Fontaine is executive director of World Relief Quad Cities.

“They can seek temporary protected status. They can be part of the diversity visa,” Fontaine said Friday, noting every country is different in how they approach refugee resettlement. “Like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia — other countries, they are all taking in Ukraine, so they could come in that way, or refugees could seek asylum at the U.S. border.”

“European countries or even developing countries have taken more refugees than the United States — like Turkey,” she said. “So I think obviously every country’s different; I think like France is putting limits on it, but I think it’s also country-specific.”

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. Since the onset of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has advocated for this designation, and it applauded DHS’ quick action.

“HIAS commends DHS’ decision to grant TPS for Ukrainians in the U.S. who cannot return home right now due to the spiraling violence and humanitarian disaster in Ukraine,” Naomi Steinberg, HIAS Vice President for U.S. Policy and Advocacy, said this week. “It’s heartening that in the midst of violence and displacement, Europe, the U.S., Canada, and other countries are taking steps to keep people safe.”

In making the announcement, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said, “Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries.”

A refugee fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine holds her baby as she sits in a tent at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

The TPS designation is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ukraine that prevent Ukrainian nationals, and those of no nationality who last lived in Ukraine, from returning to Ukraine safely.

These conditions resulted from the full-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine, which marks the largest conventional military action in Europe since World War II. This invasion has caused a humanitarian crisis with significant numbers of individuals fleeing and damage to civilian infrastructure that left nearly a million individuals without electricity or water or access to food, basic supplies, shelter, and emergency medical services.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi summarized the situation in his recent statement. He continued by saying, “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one. Hour by hour, minute by minute, more people are fleeing the terrifying reality of violence. Countless have been displaced inside the country. And unless there is an immediate end to the conflict, millions more are likely to be forced to flee Ukraine.”

“Despite the extraordinary pace and challenges, the response from governments and local communities in receiving this one million refugees has been remarkable,” Grandi said.

World Relief QC has resettled 246 Afghans

Since last fall, Moline-based World Relief QC has helped 246 Afghans settle in the area, compared to the original plan of 175, Fontaine said. 

In this image provided by the U.S. Army, U.S.-affiliated Afghans arrive at the Pristina International Airport in Kosovo on Oct. 16, 2021. During their temporary stay at Camp Liya, Afghan families receive housing, medical, and logistical support from Task Force Ever Vigilant. The U.S. is welcoming tens of thousands of Afghans airlifted out of Kabul but has disclosed little publicly about a small group who remain overseas: Dozens who triggered potential security issues during security vetting and have been sent to an American base in the Balkan nation of Kosovo. (Sgt. Gloria Kamencik/U.S. Army via AP)

“The rumor is that there will be at least a million Afghans who will be coming to the states,” she said Friday. “I think they’re saying 85,000, but we don’t have a number as far as how many people have gotten out and that might be in Qatar, or Pakistan. With Ukrainians, they have border countries that they can actually walk to and they have more of a safe haven than like an Afghan trying to get to Pakistan, with the borders there and having armed guards.”

Fontaine said her office has gotten a number of calls the past week from people asking how to help Ukrainian refugees.

“I’m basically, well, we don’t have any choice. I can’t give you Ukraine cases right now,” she said. “Honestly, it’s really quiet down at the State Department, compared with Afghanistan. It was like all within one week.”

In World Relief history, in the last 18 years, the organization nationwide has resettled over 13,000 refugees from Ukraine, including a sizable population in Chicago, Fontaine said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a proclamation declaring this Sunday, March 6, 2022, as a Day of Prayer for Ukraine in Iowa.

“Iowans, Americans and nations across the globe are watching the events unfolding in Ukraine with disbelief and sadness,” Reynolds said in a Friday release. “As soldiers and civilians stand united to protect their homeland, Iowans can unite in our support for the Ukrainian people through the power of prayer.  

On Sunday, Iowans are encouraged to join in the Day of Prayer for Ukraine to show solidarity in their fight against Russian forces and to restore peace and civility in their country.

In the QC, a donation to the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities was made by the Martin Rich Family and the Louis and Ida Fox-Rich Endowment Fund, contributing $10,000 to support Jewish organizations in and around Ukraine who are helping the Ukrainian people. Recently, a second generous funder also contributed $10,000, and Federation director Allan Ross has received other donations, ranging from $10 to $500.

To donate to JFQC, click HERE. To learn more about World Relief QC, visit their website.