The following update on refugees from Afghanistan comes from Greg Hope, Executive Director of the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office:
How many arrivals from Afghanistan are we currently seeing in Western Washington?
I don’t know the exact figure for Washington, as all the resettlement agencies have received many hundreds of Afghans. There are five of us operating in the state. We are the smallest. I expect an update within the next few weeks provided by the State Coordinator. I also expect the figure to be in the thousands. As of today, we have received 188 individual arrivals and 60 cases. We have 57 in 30 cases pending arrival.
What are some of the challenges that new arrivals are facing as they arrive in the region?
Housing remains the biggest challenge but we are getting important help from Airbnb and Extended Stay America. Also UTies, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Rotary, and Refugee and Immigrant Services NW have also helped with housing. Epiphany, Seattle is sponsoring a family and others will soon be on board including Good Samaritan, Sammamish; Trinity, Everett; St. John’s; Snohomish; and Christ Church, Puyallup. I hope that churches will be another avenue of support for housing. Following housing, it has been difficult to get Employment Authorization (EAD) cards for nearly all clients, Social Security Cards are even more delayed and sometimes read that the recipient is ineligible for employment, which is definitely not the case. Jobs are plentiful but these documents are still a necessity for a smooth transition to the labor market.
What are some of the challenges that your office faces in keeping up with the volume of new arrivals in the region?
We have literally had one arrival after another, which brings on a foggy feeling among staff. We are definitely not keeping up with phone calls and paperwork, but we just keep trying.
What are some of the biggest needs for new arrivals as they attempt to get settled into a new life here?
New arrivals need employers who will overlook employment documentation until an overtaxed system catches up with its paperwork. Other than the usual household items, non-perishable food with some sensitivity to Afghan culture is needed (no pork). We are hoping that part of the work that churches can do is deliver these items directly to refugee families.
What are some practical ways that individuals can help meet the needs of new arrivals and help to alleviate some of the burdens of your office?
We would like churches to volunteer time and organize as Epiphany is trying to do, to directly sponsor specific families that will most likely want to live in South King County.
To help support the work of the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office, please visit the link below: