SPARTA, Wis. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore and Ilhan Omar have asked the secretary of defense to investigate claims of possible mistreatment of Afghan refugees staying at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin.
Moore, of Wisconsin, and Omar, of Minnesota, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Wednesday about concerns raised with their offices about conditions at Fort McCoy, including families lacking access to basic necessities and staff speaking in a “rude, condescending manner” to refugees.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported this week that many Afghan refugees staying at Fort McCoy still had not been able to get a new set of clothes and that there were long lines for meals.
Thomas Gresback, a Fort McCoy spokesperson with the Department of Homeland Security, said the base initially experienced supply chain issues, but that has been addressed and clothing is being distributed as fast as possible.
The base said personnel seek “constant feedback” from the Afghans on how they can improve the refugees’ stay.
Fort McCoy, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of La Crosse and the Minnesota border, is one of eight military bases in the U.S. that is temporarily housing refugees who fled from Afghanistan after the Taliban toppled Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government on Aug. 15. As of this week, 12,500 Afghans were staying at the Wisconsin base.
In addition to the investigation, Moore and Omar asked Austin to provide information on how the Defense Department is ensuring that Afghans are treated respectfully. They also requested all reports that Afghans have made about any alleged mistreatment and information on the reporting process.
“We urge you to swiftly take action to address these concerns and ensure that any such shortfalls are immediately alleviated and that these vulnerable individuals have access to all their basic needs while they await movement to their final places of refuge in our country,” Moore and Omar said.