Newly arrived Afghans test a refugee resettlement system that’s rebuilding on the fly

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A newly arrived Afghan family stocks up on donated household items at a refugee resettlement office in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Joel Rose /NPR


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Kristyn Peck, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, outside the group’s Fairfax office.

Joel Rose /NPR


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Shelves of donated supplies at a refugee resettlement office in Northern Virginia.

Joel Rose /NPR


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Handmade signs decorate the hallway at a refugee resettlement office in Fairfax County, Va.

Joel Rose /NPR


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Joel Rose /NPR

Handmade signs decorate the hallway at a refugee resettlement office in Fairfax County, Va.

Joel Rose /NPR

That’s the case for one newlywed couple who stopped by the office this week. She’s a U.S. citizen, he’s Afghan. They escaped together from Kabul in August, along with the man’s brother. They asked that we not use their full names, because his parents are still in Afghanistan, where they’ve been threatened by the Taliban.

The woman, who asked to be identified only by her initials, N.T., says they spent a few weeks on military bases in Italy and New Jersey, before coming back to her home in Virginia.

«Right now, the hardest thing is basically just not knowing what their status is,» N.T. said. «We don’t have any of their documents back yet. We don’t have any of their work permits. We don’t have anything yet. His main struggle is he doesn’t know where to start and what to start,» she said about her husband.

What’s next for Afghans with humanitarian parole will look in some ways like what refugees typically get. They’re eligible for housing assistance, and help finding a job. But that all depends on resettlement agencies like this one doing more — and doing it faster — than they ever have before.

  • Afghan refugees
  • refugee resettlement
  • Virginia

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