For Afghan refugees, challenges include lack of affordable housing, job-hunting : NPR


Division of Homeland Safety and non-government personnel wave as the ultimate bus with Afghan refugees aboard departs Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Feb. 19.

Greg L. Davis/AP/DHS


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Greg L. Davis/AP/DHS


Division of Homeland Safety and non-government personnel wave as the ultimate bus with Afghan refugees aboard departs Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Feb. 19.

Greg L. Davis/AP/DHS

Prior to now six months, Feraidon Hakimi has had three totally different properties.

After fleeing from his native Afghanistan final August, the 22-year-old arrived at Washington Dulles Worldwide Airport and was moved to the Fort Pickett navy base in Blackstone, Va. 4 months later, he moved right into a home in Maryland. However his journey within the U.S. continues to be simply starting.

“Right here, I’m alone. I’ve nobody to help me financially,” Hakimi mentioned.

The final teams of Afghan refugees who had been residing on U.S. navy bases departed this month, however refugee businesses say the refugees nonetheless face immense challenges within the subsequent step of resettlement.

On Feb. 19, the Division of Homeland Safety introduced that every one Afghans who had been quickly housed on U.S. navy bases have been “resettled” to communities throughout the nation. The final base that was housing Afghans, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, will stay partially open to welcome incoming Afghan refugees as a part of the DHS’s Operation Allies Welcome.

DHS says roughly 84,600 Afghan nationals, Americans and lawful everlasting residents have arrived within the U.S. as a part of Operation Allies Welcome, which was established after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August 2021. Greater than 76,000 Afghan nationals have now gone to communities throughout the nation, DHS says.

“It is a vital milestone … however I need to stress the mission is not over but. The laborious work in some ways is the upcoming weeks and months forward,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, informed NPR. The nonprofit has helped settle refugees and migrants arriving within the U.S. for greater than 80 years.

Reasonably priced housing continues to be a prime concern for resettling refugees

Vignarajah says challenges stay forward for each refugees leaving navy bases and the resettlement businesses like hers which might be working to assist them. For instance, discovering inexpensive housing continues to be a significant problem, particularly in areas that Afghans desire to reside in like California and Northern Virginia.

“It is a sophisticated technique of looking for acceptable, inexpensive housing,” Vignarajah says, when “fairly priced lodging are scarce to start with.” An absence of housing provide is driving up rents throughout the nation.

Laura Thompson Osuri, govt director of the nonprofit Properties Not Borders, mentioned help from the federal government to assist refugees discover extra everlasting housing has been missing. Properties Not Borders helps refugees and asylum-seekers within the Washington, D.C., space with furnishings and provides of their properties, as properly serving to them discover jobs.

“The U.S. needed them off the bases as a result of it was too costly to be on the bases, however now they’re all in resorts, quite a bit are nonetheless in resorts, quite a bit aren’t in everlasting housing,” Osuri mentioned. “Placing them in resorts is much more costly and extra scattered about.”

NPR reached out to DHS in regards to the prices of resettlement efforts and was referred to the State Division. The State Division didn’t instantly reply to remark.

Osuri provides that the dearth of inexpensive housing within the Washington space has made it practically “inconceivable” for refugee households to search out everlasting housing within the space.

“It is a nightmare,” she mentioned. “It is so irritating to see.”

Job-hunting can be a significant stress

For Hakimi in Maryland, housing hasn’t been his largest concern, he says. After leaving the navy base in Virginia in December, Hakimi spent two days in a resort and was then moved to extra everlasting housing in Maryland.

“The method of housing was superb for me,” Hakimi mentioned. However now, his biggest problem is making an attempt to get a job.

“My household aren’t right here, so right here I begin from the zero,” he mentioned. “I’m not complaining. That is simply my scenario.”

In Afghanistan, Hakimi studied journalism and public relations. Now that he is within the U.S., his pals are advising him to vary his profession path, as a result of he’d should be more adept in English to get a job in PR and have extra expertise. He is additionally making an attempt to determine if he ought to return to high school within the U.S., and the way he’d pay for that diploma.

The resettlement company serving to Hakimi will present a housing stipend for him for 3 months. He is counting the times he has left earlier than he has to start out paying lease and supporting himself.

“I do not know what I ought to do, to be trustworthy,” he mentioned. “I haven’t got anybody to help me.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine leaves organizations bracing for extra refugees

Whereas organizations just like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are nonetheless offering assist to Afghan refugees, they’re already bracing for one more wave of potential refugees from Ukraine.

“The refugee resettlement system is exactly how we defend susceptible populations, whether or not they’re from Afghanistan or Ukraine,” Vignarajah mentioned in an announcement on Thursday.

“The U.S. and its allies should put together to answer the very actual risk of a mass exodus of Ukrainian refugees. Defending the displaced can not merely be an afterthought,” she mentioned.

U.S. officers have predicted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may produce between 1 million and 5 million refugees.