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How more collaborations and outreach to the private sector can improve Afghan resettlement program

Megan Carlton
LM Otero
/
Associated Press
On their first day in a new apartment, a family that fled Afghanistan speaks with Megan Carlton, right, with the Refugee Services of Texas at their new home in Dallas, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.

The U.S. evacuated more than 76,000 Afghans after the military ended its operation there, but not everyone has moved to permanent housing yet. Curtis Ried, special advisor to the White House on Afghan resettlement, was in North Texas recently and spoke with KERA.

The shortage of affordable housing in the U.S. has not only affected first time homebuyers, it’s also been difficult for resettlement agencies charged with finding homes for newly arrived refugees.

During his visit to Dallas, Curtis Ried, senior director for Multilateral Affairs for the National Security Council, said resettlement agencies have been looking at different housing options. One example? More partnerships with the private sector.

“We heard talk of Airbnb helping on the housing front, partnerships with Amazon, other companies who are helping to get the goods that refugees need to set up their new homes,” Ried said.

More collaboration and better communication with other agencies involved in helping refugees is important, Ried added.

“Resettlement agencies were saying that they now have a much more cohesive kind of shared pool of housing resources because they’ve been pushed to identify the housing resources to meet the needs and they think that will strengthen the system going forward,” he said.

A man in a blue suit jacket stands near an American flag inside a conference room.
Stella M. Chavez
/
KERA News
Curtis Ried, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs for the National Security Council, was in North Texas recently to talk about the Afghan resettlement program.

Afghan refugees were initially placed on military bases after arriving in the U.S. last year. Many were later moved to temporary housing like hotels. Ried said agencies have to educate individuals and organizations not familiar with the resettlement process or who’ve never provided assistance to refugees.

“Talking to developers, to landlords, to private leasing companies to explain the needs of this population, explain why they may not have a credit history in the United States and the resources and the benefits that are available to those that are in the program to reassure landlords that they're going to be good tenants,” he said.

So far, about 85% of Afghan refugees have been moved to permanent housing in the U.S. Ried said that’s based on a survey of the government’s resettlement agency partners. Some critics have said the U.S. has treated those fleeing the war in Ukraine better than those who’ve fled Afghanistan or other countries like Syria. Ried said each group has different needs.

“Afghans who are brought here are coming here for permanent resettlement,” he said. “We also brought them out by airlift, and it's very difficult to flee Afghanistan over land, which is, I think, a really important distinction with the Ukraine crisis, where we have European Union countries and others who are welcoming Ukrainians who are fleeing.”

Ried was recently in Moldova where he met with Ukrainian refugees, most of them women and children who left behind husbands, brothers and sons. Most of them, he said, told him they want to return to Ukraine after the war has ended.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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