Donations pouring in for Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy, as allegations of mistreatment surface

NOW: Donations pouring in for Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy, as allegations of mistreatment surface

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee-area Congresswoman Gwen Moore is urging the US Department of Justice to investigate allegations of mistreatment and neglect of Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy. It comes amid a new call for cold-weather clothing to help the refugees as the winter season nears.

In a letter to the DOJ, Congresswoman Moore says her office has fielded complaints of condescending and insulting language, and a lack of basic necessities. The greater Milwaukee area is working to address the latter issue, as donations are pouring in.

Munjed Ahmad is a board member at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. He says, "We understood that many of those people who fled, fled without any kind of forewarning."

Thousands of Afghan guests at Fort McCoy need shoes, clothing and personal items, so the Islamic Society of Milwaukee put out the call. Twenty-four pallets will drive away Saturday morning, and they'll send another shipment as more donations come in.

Ahmad says, "The most beautiful thing I took from it was it's not just one segment of our community helping, it's the entire Milwaukee community that's coming and dropping off items that are in need."

And at Fort McCoy, officials are asking specifically for winter clothes before the weather turns. Angie Salazar is the federal coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome. She says, "As many of them fled with only the clothes on their back and very few belongings, there is an immediate need for winter clothing and shoes."

But the call for help is coming as allegations of mistreatment and neglect are surfacing. Congresswoman Gwen Moore wrote to the Department of Justice: "It is important that staff at Fort McCoy and elsewhere working with these individuals are sensitive and understanding of what these families are experiencing and their trauma."

A refugee currently living at Fort McCoy -- who wishes to remain anonymous because he fears Taliban retaliation against his family still in Afghanistan -- said meals and conditions are not good. "We worked with them in bad times. We helped the Americans in Afghanistan. So when we came, we thought they would treat us better than what we are witnessing here."

Munjed Ahmad says he and others want to be the refugees' backbone, helping beyond their temporary stay with things like banking, drivers' licenses, and immigration paperwork. "It's our intention to continue providing whatever support we can provide to the Afghanistan guests."

The Salvation Army and its partner organizations have set up several winter clothing drop-off locations throughout the state for what they're calling the greatest, pressing need. The one nearest to the Milwaukee area is in Oak Creek. They're asking for new items of all sizes, including coats, jeans, hats and gloves. The organizations are also accepting monetary donations.

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