OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Afghan refugees started making their way to Oklahoma about two years ago with the help of numerous agencies. Just how well has the transition gone though? Tuesday a state senator listened to an interim study to find out.

“We lost everything in Afghanistan. My house, my cars, we left everything. Our belongings. We were only told to bring one small backpack,” said Feroz Bashari. An Afghan refugee who came to Oklahoma with his family of 7. “But we were very happy we made it out of Afghanistan.”

Bashari and his family join just over 1,800 Afghan refugees that have come to the sooner state since 2021.

“It’s impossible to state the impact this diverse refugee community has had on Oklahoma City,” said The founder of The Spero Project Kim Brandy. A nonprofit organization that helps refugees.

“They’re people just like us, who are beautiful people,” said Christine Poyner, a sponsor family with her husband Jeff.

Tuesday morning, Bashari, the Poyner’s, Brandy and State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-OKC, joined numerous other organizations like CAIR Oklahoma and Catholic Charities to see how the whole process has gone.

State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. Image KFOR.
State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. Image KFOR.

“What we’ve heard nationally is that Oklahoma has done a remarkable job,” Hicks said.

Hicks said while it has gone well, the study also addressed multiple challenges, including problems with living conditions.

“While they continue to be incredibly grateful for living in Oklahoma, they had sewage back up into their apartment 8 times,” Jeff Poyner said.

Poyner added that the sewage sat in that particular family’s apartment for three days. Jeff Poyner said safe and affordable housing continue to be an issue with one instance of a man being assaulted as well.

“We need to update our landlord tenant laws, making sure that we have good responsible landlords,” Hicks said.

Also a problem that was pointed out is getting important documents for the families.

“Many of our new neighbors are at risk of losing their status,” Hicks said.

This also puts them at risk of losing employment while some of them are already highly educated and trained according to those in the meeting. Hicks said she hopes to spark action this next legislative session to address these issues and beyond.

“I believe that there is an appetite to make sure that folks are well cared for and can be productive members of our economy,” Hicks said.

The Senate Veterans and Military Affairs committee held the study. You can find more information at cairoklahoma.com, catholiccharitiesok.org, or thesperoproject.com.