Fort Bliss addresses viral video of Afghan refugee housing facilities

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Area photo of Doña Ana Range Complex in New Mexico facilities near Fort Bliss, Texas. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing in support of Operation Allies Refuge. This initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan citizens who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Elijah Ingram/24TPASE)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Fort Bliss is providing more context to a viral video that appeared to show unfavorable conditions within the facilities housing Afghan migrants.

On Thursday, KTSM 9 News received exclusive footage depicting facilities caked in mud and rust and a toilet covered with bugs within the Doña Ana Housing Complex. 

Lt. Col. Allie M. Payne, director of public affairs at Fort Bliss, said the Army post cannot validate the timing or exact location of the photographs. 

Fort Bliss began receiving Afghan refugees on Aug. 21 and has since constructed more accommodations, provided meals and arranged transportation for the Afghan guests. 

“That capacity-building effort has not been perfect, but our team of Interagency partners, contractors and DoD has not wavered in its commitment to temporarily house our guests in the safest conditions, which includes identifying challenges and resolving issues immediately,” Payne told KTSM. “Without the perspective of the tweet in question, our team had already identified the need to shift maintenance resources to facilities most in need and to increase the frequency of cleaning.”

Payne said that teams are onsite around the clock to monitor conditions and solicit input from the Afghan refugees. 

Payne said that Task Force-Bliss was made aware of the images that made the rounds on social media on Aug. 30 and applied a specific effort to ensure the Afghan refugees that the issue was being addressed, and reassured with an urgent response to any issues.

Task Force-Bliss conducted a physical inspection and also sent a preventative medicine team to assess permanent bathroom facilities. 

The issue was addressed with both the Mayor Cell, which is the onsite unit responsible for managing the housing complex, as well as leaders overseeing the Dona Ana Village.

A local leader within the Doña Ana Village volunteered to assist with communicating and addressing these sorts of issues within the community. 

KTSM spoke with Hamed Ahmadi, an Afghan refugee on Fort Bliss, who said that he hasn’t encountered the facilities that appeared in the video, saying he’s being housed in a tent and that access to hygienic products and food scarcity has been challenging. 

“I think the problem with the situation here is the government not prepared,” Ahmadi said. “People remain hungry.”

Despite the challenges, Fort Bliss says the mission remains a whole-of-government response. 

“Our top priority remains providing a safe and secure environment for our guests to complete their immigration process in order to transition into their new lives in the United States,” said Payne. “We have dedicated professionals on the ground around the clock, caring for each one of our guests.”

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.