OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After US Troops started withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2021, thousands of desperate Afghans rushed the airport trying to escape their country and the threat of death as everything collapsed around them.
1,800 of those Afghan refugees ended up in Oklahoma hoping to start a new life. 1,000 made their homes in Oklahoma City, while 800 set up in Tulsa. However, their escape to freedom is coming with some big challenges.
“We are friendly people. We are not that bad,” an Afghan refugee told News 4. “Lots of Americans think that Afghans are terrorists.”
The refugee, who was a pilot in the Afghan Air Force, said it is still not safe to share his name or his face on camera.
“In Afghanistan, my life was in danger. But even though if I go back to Afghanistan, I have to fly for Taliban,” he said. “I can go back to my career [in the U.S.] and I will start from scratch, but still I will fly.”
He now works in the metro as a translator and his new life has not been easy. He said it’s the same story for other refugees, who have been victims of crimes.
“There was a family that had a young son, I think he’s in his twenties. He was working and he was going back home,” said the refugee. “There were four or five people and they grabbed him and they beat him and he showed me his face and he showed me his picture. He had like a swollen eye and it was very bad.”
According to an Oklahoma City Police Report, officers were called to a metro apartment complex after a brick was thrown through a refugee family’s window during a Ramadan feast. The report shows around six teens “pushed open his front door” and punched the father and “other members of the group.” After two teens were arrested police said “more officers were called back out due to an agitated part of [the apartment’s} community openly taunting the Afghans and the Afghans feeling like a reprisal was likely.”
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said thankfully, they were able to move the family out of the apartment complex immediately. However, finding a new place to live isn’t an easy task.
Patrick Raglow, Executive Director of the Catholic Charities of OKC, said refugees are also facing affordable housing problems. Many refugees had high-paying jobs to support their large families back home.
“Sustaining a family of 11 on one income at $15 an hour is a hard problem to solve. So once those rental assistance dollars dry up, there may be some difficulty being able to afford the rent,” said Raglow.
Raglow said refugee families were using federal COVID-19 dolalrs to help pay for rent for 18 months. That money has run out for many families.
Now, Catholic charities has launched “operation move out” to find them a safe and affordable place to live.
“We’ve also had difficulty with some of the management, the responsiveness for air conditioning, repair, for sewage repairs, etc,” said Raglow. “If any of the listeners out there are apartment complex owners and want to help us out, we’d be delighted to take that call.”
Catholic Charities also said they’re supporting HB2109 that gives tenants in low-quality housing more rights. It also prevents landlords from retaliating against tenants.