Officials mark one year anniversary and the arrival of more than 25,000 Afghan refugees to the Philadelphia region

PHILADELPHIA —  Mayor Jim Kenney hosted a special thank you event today at City Hall to honor and thank the many individuals and communities in the Philadelphia area who were instrumental in Operation Allies Welcome, including through the resettlement of hundreds of Afghans in the Philadelphia area. Mayor Kenney was joined by special guest U.S. Department of State’s leading principal on refugee resettlement, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Julieta Valls Noyes.

Both Mayor Kenney and Assistant Secretary Noyes thanked resettlement agency and community partners, volunteer groups, and city and state officials for stepping up to support arriving Afghans and welcome them to the City of Brotherly Love in their time of need.

The recognition event comes as the world marks nearly one year since the beginning of the historic relocation efforts of tens of thousands of Afghan allies from Afghanistan to the United States. Through Operation Allies Welcome, more than 25,000 of whom were welcomed through Philadelphia International Airport.

“As we approach the one year anniversary of the commencement of this extraordinary and complex operation, it is critical that we recognize the extraordinary contributions of the many resettlement and community partners, as well as city, state and federal officials involved in this historic effort,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am very proud that  together, and with a high level of coordination occurring at PHL Airport in the last year we have had the privilege to welcome more than 25,000 evacuees. I thank all of the City departments involved as well as state and federal agencies, local hospitals, non-profit partners, volunteers and everyone who have stepped up to aid our Afghan brothers and sisters during this critical time.”

Beginning in August 2021 through March 2022, the City, through Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), coordinated Operation Allies Welcome and provided a point-of-entry location for individuals evacuated from Afghanistan. The City, along with local, state, and federal partner organizations in this effort, coordinated to provide medical assistance, housing, and connection to the diverse community of immigrant service providers who assisted with an array of social services.

“We thank everyone in the City of Philadelphia who provided extraordinary support for Operation Allies Welcome, facilitating the resettlement of tens of thousands Afghans across the United States over the past year. We especially honor the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ for living up to its name every day as the permanent home for hundreds of these Afghans and many other refugees fleeing persecution across the globe,” said Assistant Secretary Julieta Valls Noyes.  

“Philadelphia International Airport’s mission is ‘Proudly connecting Philadelphia with the world’ and this was never more evident than during Operation Allies Welcome,” said City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation Interim CEO Keith Brune. “From August 28, 2021 through March 1, 2022, PHL worked with hundreds of representatives from city, state, federal and private agencies, to welcome almost 30,000 evacuees on over 300 flights. The teamwork that took place to ensure the needs of all evacuees were met– from providing interpreters and signage in their native languages to offering Halal food, a space for prayer, and activities to keep the children occupied—was awesome. The airport is proud to have been able to have had an important role in this mission.”

Notes on Terminology: Operation Allies Welcome had been previously known as Operation Allies Refuge PHL during the earlier phase of this federally-led mission.

B-Roll/Photos: Photos and video from the operation are available for media use. Credit: City of Philadelphia.