PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s role in Operation Allies Welcome officially ended on March 1, when the federally-led mission returned to Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Virginia. From August 28, 2021-March 1, 2022, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) welcomed 29,713 individuals evacuated from Afghanistan on 336 flights (in and outbound, live and ferry, commercial and military).
"PHL serves as a global gateway and our mission is 'Proudly connecting Philadelphia with the world'," said City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation CEO Chellie Cameron. "This was never more evident than during Operation Allies Welcome. Working side-by-side with hundreds of representatives from city, state, federal and private agencies, we opened our arms to thousands of evacuees, treating all with dignity and respect."
Operation Allies Welcome began in late August 2021, with the first flights processed at IAD. From August 28 until mid-September, PHL and IAD received flights with evacuees. After a three-week pause to allow time for public health precautions, PHL was the only airport designated by the federal government to receive evacuee flights when they resumed on October 5.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was responsible for security and processing individuals arriving at PHL. Gerardo Spero, TSA Federal Security Director for PHL, also served as Federal Coordinator of Operation Allies Welcome. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas visited PHL on March 10 to thank the TSA, CBP, Division of Aviation and City of Philadelphia teams for their work during the mission.
“It has been an honor to guide this humanitarian mission to assist our vulnerable Afghan allies here at Philadelphia International Airport,” said Gerardo Spero. “It has been an impressive partnership of both compassion and cooperation among numerous Federal, state and local partners that created a successful support network for this vital effort. When asked to provide a service, whether it was offering medical care, distributing food, arranging for activities for children or providing technical support, all of our partners stepped up to do what they could to make this a smooth transition on behalf our temporary guests. Everyone involved should be proud of their efforts.”
Throughout Operation Allies Welcome, the U.S. Department of Defense, City of Philadelphia and partner organizations helped coordinate medical evaluations and access to physical and mental health support services; making connections to social services; providing interpreters and posting signage in the evacuees’ native languages; and offering Halal food, a space for prayer, and activities to keep the children occupied.
"This unprecedented humanitarian mission showcased the welcoming spirit of Philadelphia. I am thankful to all City departments that worked tirelessly since day one and state and federal agencies, local hospitals, non-profit partners, and volunteers who stepped up to aid our Afghan brothers and sisters during this critical time. Philadelphia shined as a beacon to the world through this effort, and I couldn't be more proud," said Mayor Kenney.