The group includes the remaining players and family members of the Afghanistan National Youth Women’s Soccer Team, people that worked for the Portuguese military and families referred by JRS Portugal

NEW YORK and LISBON, Portugal, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Jesuit Refugee Service Portugal (JRS Portugal) and The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation (The Foundation) of New York are pleased to announce the rescue of and granting of asylum to Portugal of 220 Afghan nationals. The group includes the remaining 115 players and family members of the Afghanistan National Youth Women’s Soccer Team, and individuals who aided Portugal, Germany, and Estonia as well as families referred by JRS Portugal.

The rescue of the soccer players and their families began in August with an operation underwritten in entirety by The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation. With The Foundation’s financial backing, the families were brought to safe houses in Afghanistan and flown to Lisbon. Andrew P. Duncan, co-head of The Foundation, facilitated and oversaw the rescue from Portugal and has spent eight weeks helping to resettle the Afghans and integrate them into Portuguese society. Due to the lack of funding from the European Union, The Foundation supplied the funds necessary to ensure safe resettlement of the Afghans.

The Foundation had previously facilitated and underwritten the safe evacuation and resettlement of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music’s star cellist, Meena Karimi, to the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, United States.

Elizabeth H. Weatherman and Mr. Duncan, co-heads of The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome these deserving people to the beauty and safety of Portugal and introduce them to the generous Portuguese people.”

Weatherman and Duncan also said: “Today’s great news is tempered by the bittersweet reality that there are literally hundreds of people we were forced to exclude from these flights. Those hundreds represent just a small fraction of the tens of thousands of deserving people desperate to escape Afghanistan. Without government funding, facilitation and assets it will be impossible to help the thousands of at-risk Afghans seeking to evacuate. There is currently nowhere near enough funding allocated for the resettlement of Afghans in the United States or the European Union. There are too many Afghans for private foundations, such as ours, or the overextended non-governmental organizations, to save and resettle them all. The children of Afghanistan are innocents, and the government of the United States has a moral obligation to ensure their safety and create a better future for them. We have tried to do the right thing on behalf of ourselves and our country, but we know there is much more work to be done.”

On behalf of The Foundation, Mr. Duncan has extended his heartfelt gratitude to the senior leadership of the Portuguese Government, the Embassy of the United States of America in Portugal, in particular Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Penny Rechkemmer and the staff and volunteers of Jesuit Refugee Service Portugal. The Foundation would like to specifically acknowledge the Country Director of JRS Portugal, André Costa-Jorge, and Advocacy Officer Carmo Belford.

JRS Portugal’s André Costa Jorge stated: “We know from experience that when civil society and government unite, hundreds of lives can be saved. And we also know, from our experience, that when we give the hand to the one who is alone or separated from their family, when we accompany and amplify their voices, we are building a true culture of encounter, the only basis for an authentic and lasting solidarity that unites us as beings who are part of a larger family: the human family. We would like to thank Mr. Andrew Duncan, the Weatherman family, the Portuguese government and to all the people who made it possible, for giving us hope for humanity and for saving all these lives.”

Camo Belford also says “We could not be more proud of our country, that once again showed to be on the right side of history, and of all the Portuguese diplomats who honor the legacy of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Carlos Sampaio Garrido and so many other Portuguese heroes who during World War II saved more than 60,000 people, mostly Jews. We accompanied all the afghan families welcomed in Portugal. We know their anguish closely and feel them as if they were our own, for that is our nature. For this reason, we decided that we could not remain indifferent and that it was our role to fight for all those who would have been left behind, seeking to bring some Peace to these families and honor our mission.”

The Foundation would like to thank Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and his staff – both in Washington and Florida – for his office’s considerable ongoing constituency services. The foundation would also like to thank Heather Barr, associate director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. Lastly, The Foundation would like to thank Robert McCreary, a former senior U.S. government official who worked with American Special Operations in Afghanistan and Farkhunda Muhtaj of Ontario,Canada for her commitment to these efforts.

The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation has made a significant contribution to JRS Portugal to ensure the support of each of the families as they resettle in Portugal. André Costa Jorge added “We could not fail to note the outstanding spirit of collaboration that we have felt from all the public bodies involved, and to highlight the special commitment shown by the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the State Secretariat for Integration and Migration, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the High Commissioner for Migration, which helped us make all of this possible.”

About the Jesuit Refugee Service
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic non-governmental organization, founded in 1980 by the Society of Jesus. The mission of JRS is to accompany, serve and advocate the cause of refugees and forcibly displaced persons worldwide. JRS is present in about 50 countries, serving and accompanying more than 500,000 migrants every year. In Portugal, JRS was established in 1992.

About the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation
The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation was established by Elizabeth H. Weatherman and Andrew P. Duncan. The Foundation is dedicated to protecting human rights and democracy around the world.

About Elizabeth H. Weatherman
Ms. Weatherman is a retired executive at Warburg Pincus in New York where she led the Healthcare Group as part of the Executive Management Group. Ms. Weatherman is currently on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and Mount Holyoke College.

About Andrew P. Duncan
Mr. Duncan is a retired technology executive, human rights advocate and award-winning film producer. Mr. Duncan owns and produced the Oscar nominated Florida Project and the Sundance Audience Award winning film Joshua: Teenager versus Superpower. Mr. Duncan has produced 11 films including Book Club, starring Jane Fonda and Candace Bergen.

Media Contact:
Marta Carvalho (JRS Portugal’s Communication Office)
+351 967 886 175

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