EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Biden Administration gave journalists their first look inside one of the sites housing thousands of Afghan evacuees. The inside look of the facility housing evacuees who arrived in the country after being airlifted out of Afghanistan took a total of three hours.
The tour started mid-morning at Fort Bliss, where a soldier escorted KTSM’s Christina Aguayo and photojournalist Johnny Munoz into the military post. From there, they boarded a helicopter, took a 15-minute flight to the Doña Ana Village, and toured the massive facility.
The Village was transformed from a Military Training Complex that had a capacity of 1,800 to an entire village with the ability to house 10,000 people in a matter of weeks by an interagency team led by the Department of Homeland Security.
Large tents holding 100 people each line the village, processing centers, medical tents, and dining areas. Some tents contain partitions that separate family units to give them more privacy. Single men are grouped with single men, and single women are grouped with other single women.
Upon arrival, each evacuee is given necessary toiletries and taken to temporary housing where cots containing packaged linens, pillows, and other items. Each evacuee is vaccinated and given a medical screening.
According to officials, the evacuees have access to food 24/7 in the form of a ‘Grab and Go’ system that provides drinks, snacks, and desserts. They also have access to a dining hall that serves full meals at least three times a day and only shuts down for restocking purposes and overnight hours. Officials say there is no limit to the amount of food evacuees can have.
Children could be seen running around, playing with soccer balls, while others carried boxes of food up to their chins. Evacuees gave officials and tour guides fist bumps as the tour progressed, and the tents KTSM was allowed to enter appeared to be clean and organized.
A spokesperson for DHS indicated that the evacuees are free to come and go as they please and are not being ‘held at the village. However, he said that most evacuees chose to stay at the village until they relocate to cities across the nation.
More than 1,000 Fort Bliss soldiers are on the ground at The Doña Ana Village. A representative for Fort Bliss said that they are very proud of the mission they were able to accomplish in expanding the capacity of the former Military Training Camp and assisting the evacuees as they are processed into and out of the village. According to officials, about 120 evacuees have been processed to be relocated and are waiting on relocation sites to receive them.
Some 50,000 evacuees have already arrived in the United States, including translators and others with the U.S. Military during the 20-year war.