Magic Carpet smuggler: Refugees should go back to Afghanistan
"They are safe in Pakistan. If not, they can always go back home. [I] was asked to move them to Pakistan, and it's done. GDC was simply asked to move them (like an Uber), not to pay for housing and food forever."
Moti Kahana is an Israeli-American businessman and humanitarian rescue specialist whose organization, GDC Inc, was hired by Dominic Dyer and Tanya Crawley in late 2021 to move 92 refugees out of Afghanistan into Pakistan, where Dyer and Crawley intended to house them temporarily until plans could be made to secure asylum in safer western countries.
If you've been following this story, you know that Dyer and Crawley never completed "phase two" of Operation Magic Carpet. Instead, in August of this year, they informed the refugees via a short Zoom call that their efforts to secure funding had failed, and that every family would be on its own as of the end of September.
Responsibility for the refugees--former employees of animal welfare charity Mayhew, and their families--has fallen to Long Island, NY animal shelter Paws Unite People, which with the help of emergency funding from a Gibraltar businessman named Gregory Butcher, has managed to keep the evacuees housed until October 15th.
At that time--barring some last-minute infusion of more money--the 59 evacuees who remain in Pakistan will be left homeless and unable to support themselves. According to Meredith Festa of Paws Unite People, this is a hard deadline, as she has been unable to secure any more emergency extensions.
Among these refugees are women and children, including an infant born premature whose parents have been denied access to proper medical care.
The crux of the issue facing Operation Magic Carpet's refugees--as opposed to Paws Unite People's work to evacuate former veterinarians of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue and their families--is that Dyer, Crawley, and Moti Kahana decided to smuggle the OMC evacuees into Pakistan illegally, without passports, visas, entry stamps or other requisite paperwork.
This means that these refugees are unable to travel out of Pakistan or work legally in-country. Unable to support themselves, they were completely at the mercy of their rescuers. In Dominic Dyer's words:
"All 92 evacuees put their faith and trust in a group of complete strangers living thousands of miles away, people they have never met."
But their rescuers have walked away. And any faith and trust the evacuees placed in Dominic Dyer and Tanya Crawley has proved disastrously misguided.
As the October 15th deadline fast approaches, Paws Unite People and the World Hazara Council have joined with private citizens online to cast desperately about for help for these refugees. One potential avenue might have been Moti Kahana, the evacuation specialist who has built a brand on moving refugees out of dangerous situations.
But in a conversation with Twitter user @ZeeShore, Kahana not only declined to assist, but raised serious questions about the viability of Operation Magic Carpet's mission in the first place.
"At the time [December 2021] it was not possible to issue Afghan passports, and [the refugees] wanted to leave," he told Shore. "Now, passports can be issued. They can return [to Afghanistan] one-by-one to receive and issue passports. It is neither difficult nor dangerous. They can do it."
Kahana continued by saying, "They are safe in Pakistan, if not they can always move back home. GDC was hired to move them to Pakistan, and it's done. GDC not asked to be paying food and housing the rest of their lives."
There are numerous things to unpack about these statements. To me, the most troubling is the implicit acknowledgment that the organizers of Operation Magic Carpet knew that moving refugees into Pakistan without passports was a shortsighted decision, but opted to do it anyway.
This is backed up by a source close to the evacuation, who says she warned Kahana in early November that anyone moved into Pakistan would have no legal way out. According to this source, Kahana admitted in November that it was not a good idea to move people illegally into Pakistan.
But in December of that year, Kahana, Dyer, and Crawley went ahead with the evacuation. According to this invoice, Kahana's company was paid more than $2250 per person for the move.
Excluding the $55/day rate for additional days of hosting on either end of the move, Kahana earned a minimum of $207,000 USD for a trafficking operation that he apparently knew would cause major problems for the evacuees down the road.
Kahana claims that the evacuees are safe in Pakistan (which is false), and that if they are unsafe, they should return to Afghanistan.
As I've documented in my response to Mayhew's claim that their former employees could simply return home, it is not safe for these refugees to return to Afghanistan.
Even forgetting the numerous risk factors facing the evacuees--they are women; they are victims of Hazara genocide; they are targets of the Taliban due to their work with Mayhew, a western organization--my source close to the evacuation points to Kahana's involvement as a further mitigating factor.
"They have been labeled blasphemous and spies of Israel, US, and UK," she writes. "We have numerous specific, direct threats against this group. They WILL be tortured at best or killed at worst."
Additionally, Kahana's claim that the refugees could easily return to Afghanistan contradicts his own words about the Operation Magic Carpet evacuation, as reported in this Jewish News article dated December 9, 2021.
Kahana said the rescue, which took more than two months, was 'one of the most dangerous operations my company has ever undertaken.' Escalating violence and ensuing economic collapse after the Taliban takeover meant the evacuation of the 92 took place with extreme caution.
No one I've spoken to in Afghanistan has given any indication that the situation there is any less dangerous now than it was last December. Kahana's suggestion that the evacuees ought to return to their homes is, frankly, absurd.
Moreover, the implication here is that Kahana and GDC took well over $200,000 USD to move 92 people knowing it was a dead end.
Essentially, that $200k did not buy safety for the evacuees but rather a year's vacation from Afghanistan, after which point they would have to return to their home country with their faces having been posted all over social media by Dyer and Crawley, and the Taliban aware of what they'd done and waiting to punish them on their return.
They need to find a country that will accept them, that's the only solution, Kahana told @ZeeShore. It is [im]possible to finance them forever.
The issue here, as Kahana well knows, is that it is impossible for these refugees to move out of Pakistan without paperwork. Returning to Afghanistan is not an option for these people, and according to Festa and Paws Unite People, it will cost roughly $175,000 to obtain proper documentation for the evacuees.
That $175k price tag is a direct result of the decisions of Kahana, Dominic Dyer and Tanya Crawley, none of whom are now willing to take responsibility.
I asked Kahana to clarify at which point in the evacuation process he became aware that the refugees would need to return to Afghanistan, and when and if Dyer and Crawley were made aware. I also asked if the refugees were ever told, as none of the evacuees I've spoken to have given any indication that they expected to be told to return to Afghanistan.
"We had faith in them and chose to trust them, but they abandoned us in danger," one refugee writes. "Our photos are on social media and everybody including Taliban have become aware of our being here."
Kahana declined to answer my questions. Instead, he offered this:
"Gave all I could (and more) in Syria. Done with giving my money I simply cannot help everyone. I wish I could. They need to register with UN"
These evacuees have been struggling to navigate the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees slow registration process since their arrival in Pakistan. They are doing everything to help themselves. But again, this is a problem that Kahana helped to cause.
His unwillingness to help fix it echoes Mayhew's appallingly tone-deaf statement, in which they suggested they might hire their employees back if they returned to Afghanistan. (As a reminder, that statement was issued on the same day that dozens of young Hazara women were slaughtered by a suicide bomber in Kabul.)
These are statements being made by individuals and organizations who are trying to rationalize their abdication of any moral responsibility toward human beings who trusted them with their lives.
Dominic Dyer, meanwhile, continues to block anyone who asks him about Operation Magic Carpet. Tanya Crawley remains deafeningly silent.
In hours, 59 people will be on the streets in Pakistan, utterly helpless.
And all we hear from the principal parties (if anything) is that it's not their problem to solve.
Please consider donating to Paws Unite People's BandAid fund to buy the Operation Magic Carpet evacuees a little more time.