Last of California students stranded in Afghanistan make it out

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The last of several Afghan refugee families who had resettled near San Diego only to end up trapped in their homeland during summer visits amid the Taliban takeover in August have made it safely out of the country, school officials said on Tuesday.

The final stranded family group consisting of four students from the Cajon Valley Union School District and their mother made their way to Kabul, the Afghan capital, and took a flight to Doha, Qatar, according to district spokesman Howard Shen.

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He said the group, stuck in Afghanistan since August after the Taliban swiftly seized power, got out of the country “with lots of assistance,” but he declined to elaborate on the precise means of their departure.

A statement from the school district, located in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, said the stranded family were helped by various aid organizations and government officials who asked not to be named.

School district community liaison representatives, working with staff from their local member of Congress, Darrell Issa, a Republican, had previously arranged exits for 19 other immigrant students and their parents likewise trapped during vacation visits to Afghanistan, according to the statement.

Afghan refugees account for a few hundred of the 17,000 students enrolled in Cajon Valley schools.

District officials said such families likely saw the summer of 2021 as their last, best chance to safely pay a return visit to Afghanistan to see loved ones before the US military pulled out but ended up caught in the ensuing chaos when the Afghan government abruptly fell.

The superintendent of the San Juan School District in Sacramento County has said nine local Afghan refugee families, comprising a total of 24 students, were still stranded in Afghanistan under similar circumstances and in need of rescue.

More than 114,000 people were evacuated by a US airlift from the Kabul airport in the weeks immediately following the Taliban takeover before the US withdrawal was completed.

Late last month, a group of 13 US senators, all Democrats, sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to appoint a White House official and a special State Department envoy to focus efforts to gain safe passage for “tens of thousands of individuals trying to leave Afghanistan as refugees or asylum seekers.”

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