Afghan refugees struggle to adjust to life in DC area

Thousands of Afghan refugees across the D.C. region continue to struggle to find jobs, pay their rent, and now some are on the verge of eviction, resettlement groups and advocates say.   

Megan Flores, executive director of Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center based in McLean, Virginia, says there’s a small network of groups in the DMV that help refugees, but they’re at a point where there are not enough resources to meet the demand.  

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Flores said government systems are overwhelmed and aid is starting to run out. 

"We essentially took in 75,000 Afghans overnight practically and didn’t really have a plan in place," Flores said. "A lot of the families have hit their 90-day max of assistance with their caseworkers and so the caseworkers are closing out their cases and the families still have needs that haven’t been met." 

DULLES, VIRGINIA - AUGUST 31: Refugees walk through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. The Department

Flores tells FOX 5 that one of the biggest challenges refugees face is finding work —  mainly because of the language barrier. 

"It’s very hard to find a job when you don’t speak the language," she says. When you don’t have access to transportation to get to the job; some of them still haven’t received their work permits." 


She also says it’s been hard for families to find affordable housing, so some are still in hotels and others are in apartments on the verge of being evicted. 

Flores says there’s been a miscommunication between resettlement agencies and families not understanding how long rental assistance would last.  

Exclusive: FOX 5 speaks with Afghan refugees as they begin arriving in DMV

"They didn’t know that after so many months their assistance would be cut off, and they would have to start paying their rent," Flores said. "We have some families who were told ‘yes, you’ll get three months of rental assistance' and then in month three were told by their agencies we’ve actually run out of funds we’re not going to be able to pay your rent back or going forward." 

As the United States deals with thousands of refugees from Afghanistan who haven’t had their needs met, the White House is committing to receive up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine through a sponsorship program.  

"I know our organizations are drowning, so I don’t know how we could take in that many more," Flores said. "I know that the administration is tying together these sponsor circles, which is a lot to ask of everyday people. These are complicated systems that we’re trying to navigate, figuring out the social services that are available and what kinds of programs they’re eligible for."

Flores mentioned there is a need for translators too because a lot of government programs aren’t used to serving people who speak the language.  

How to help Afghan refugees arriving to DC region

FOX 5 did reach out to the U.S. State Department but did not hear back.  

The International Rescue Committee, one of the agencies that help to resettle Afghan asylum seekers sent FOX 5 the following statement: 

Across the United States, the IRC is moving swiftly to help resettle Afghans in permanent housing and provide the comprehensive support necessary for resettlement. In Maryland, the IRC has resettled 1,047 Afghan humanitarian parolees since August 2021, and another 237 refugees since October 2021. Our highest priority is the well-being of our clients, and we strive to serve them with the best services possible.

IRC works closely with clients to evaluate their housing needs and connect them to financial assistance programs from federal, state, and private sources. The IRC is in direct communication with local landlords, and we are actively working with clients who need additional assistance to provide additional aid from government and private sources. We are enrolling eligible clients in need in the Extended Case Management Program, through which Afghan parolees can access up to 3 months of rent support.

Our work in Maryland and across the U.S. is made possible by community supporters. We encourage interested community members to donate to the Welcome to Maryland Fund and help provide support for Afghans. All funds raised through the Welcome to Maryland Fund are used for direct assistance to Afghan families, including rent costs.