An online appeal for donations to organize flights to rescue vulnerable Afghans from the Taliban and resettle them in the United States has quickly found a large audience of Americans eager to help.
In one day, more than 100,000 people donated more than $5.8 million to the effort in Afghanistan, exceeding its initial goal of raising $4.4 million.
The question, according to some outside specialists, is whether the group behind the effort has the experience and organizational capability — let alone permission from the U.S. government — to rescue and resettle hundreds of desperate Afghans.
The GoFundMe campaign was organized by Tommy Marcus, who runs Quentin Quarantino, an Instagram account known for promoting left-wing memes and political causes, with nearly 770,000 followers. Others involved include military veterans, a former Republican operative and the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Marcus says in his appeal that he has been working with humanitarian aid groups, veterans and activists on the ground in Kabul, “fighting to save people who otherwise have no chance at survival in the Taliban-occupied Kabul.”
The mission, he said, is focused on men and women who have worked as human rights lawyers, champions of women’s and LGBTQ rights, journalists, government liaisons, artists and interpreters, “all of whom are at imminent risk of being executed by the Taliban, along with their families.”
The money, according to the campaign, will be paid to and distributed by Raven Advisory, a company based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which says on it website that it has experience working in Afghanistan.
All the Afghans who board the flights will have identification and access to the airport and be vetted and sponsored, according to the organizers.
“Everyone volunteering on this project is doing so for free,” the organizers wrote. “Every dollar goes back to these Afghan refugees. We are not taking a penny.”
The mission, however, has prompted concern from some refugee specialists. Karen Jacobsen, a professor of global migration at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said the effort “sounds crazy.”
“There are several large problems that immediately occur to me, but the most obvious one is that all these rescued people will immediately bump up against the U.S. immigration system” and may not be allowed to even enter the country, she said.
The State Department had no immediate comment. Marcus did not respond to messages.