ST. LOUIS ( -- Among the throngs of Afghans seen at Hamid Karzai International Airport trying to get on US planes to evacuate the country, were three families that ended up in St. Louis.

"We had three cases the last five days that have arrived from Afghanistan. These are folks who arrived and stayed at a military base in Virginia for processing, final processing, before being put on planes to come to St. Louis," said Blake Hamilton, vice president of programs at the International Institute of St. Louis.

The International Institute of St. Louis is a federally authorized resettlement organization. Hamilton said it's fortunate that the families had relatives to stay with. They're currently going through a 14-day quarantine. And he said all have been thoroughly vetted.

"We're talking about special immigrant visa holders. Folks who worked with US military or military contractors, during the conflict in Afghanistan who have gone through screening processes," he said.

According to Hamilton, the International Institute is authorized to resettle 1,050 immigrants this year, but because of the situation in Afghanistan the agency has agreed to accept more immigrants. Others are desperately trying to get out of Afghanistan but don't have special visas and are not included in those being evacuated by the US government. One of those is Najiba Sanjar.

"She worked for the government and she was into civil rights, working for women's rights as well," said her sister Dani Shah.

Shah and two sisters immigrated to St. Louis seven years ago, but now they're trying desperately to get the fourth sister out of Afghanistan.

An organization that provides support to immigrant families, Welcome Neighbor STL, has raised nearly $9,000 to cover the costs to help Sanjar get out of the country.

"The biggest obstacle that we have run into is being able to get money to people who are so desperately in need. The banks are closed. Western Union is closed. They don't have access to things like Venmo or CashApp or PayPal," said Jessica Bueler.

According to Shah, members of the Taliban went to Sanjar's house looking for her, but she was in hiding. However, a male relative was taken from his home and may be used as leverage to get Sanjar to turn herself in.

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Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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