Challenges remain for refugees in Omaha one year after leaving Afghanistan

Advocates say about 400 refugees settled in the Omaha-metro.
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On the one-year anniversary of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, many challenges remain for Afghan refugees.

Advocates say about 400 refugees settled in the Omaha metro area.

Task by task, Esmatullah Sultani adjusts to his new life and his new job in America.

“We are doing our best to achieve our dreams and we are working,” Sultani said.

Sultani moved from Afghanistan to the U.S. in 2019. In a case of bad timing, he went back to visit Afghanistan last year just before the Taliban took over.

Sultani was supposed to leave in September but couldn’t catch a flight.

“I couldn’t succeed at that time because a lot of people crowded around the airport and we couldn’t succeed to go inside.”

Months later he boarded a plane with his wife and children and moved to Omaha.

Like many refugees, Sultani had to leave family members behind.

“Definitely I am worried about them because I am in a safe zone like, I am here in the United States.”

Sultani now works at the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha.

The Afghan community is holding an Independence Day event Friday night.

Tanya DeWolf, Director of Refugee Services, says unlike Sultani, most refugees still face many barriers, including finding a job without having a U.S. background, and without speaking English.

“They have the skills that they need, they have been trained, some of them have master’s degrees, but they don’t have the English to go with it and the licensing to go with it,” DeWolf said.

Another challenge is finding an affordable home.

“A lot of landlords will require three years of employment to be able to allow them to settle into one of their homes and our refugees just don’t have that.”

Sultani is grateful his background allowed him to have a relatively smooth transition. However, he misses his loved ones and hopes to see them again.

“I want to stay here but if the situation is good, I will go and visit my family and friends over there,” Sultani said.

The Afghan community is holding an ‘Independence Day’ event Friday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. on the Bob Kerry Bridge.

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