Afghan refugees coming to eastern Oklahoma

TULSA, Okla. — Hundreds of refugees who managed to escape Afghanistan last month will begin making their way to eastern Oklahoma in just a few weeks.

Tuesday, Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma announced eight hundred refugees (or two hundred families) will be moving into Green Country in the coming weeks. Right now, many of them are at military bases in Europe and the Middle East being screened and processed by the Federal government.

“Many of these people helped the U.S. government and military for nearly the past twenty years,” said Reverend Deacon Kevin Sartorius, CEO of Eastern Oklahoma Catholic Charities. “If they stayed behind, it probably would not have turned out good for them or their families because of the work they’ve done to support our military over there against those who are now in charge.”

Sartorius said in the coming weeks, Afghan refugees will be spread out among cities not just in Tulsa but also places like Bartlesville, McAlester, and Stillwater where companies have expressed a willingness to hire refugees, and housing is available for their families.

Just because Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma has taken the lead on the efforts to get the refugees settled in, that does not necessarily mean all of those coming are Christian, let alone Catholic Christians., Sartorius said. Local Islamic groups are helping find culturally appropriate groceries and things that these people may be more familiar with when it comes to their daily lives.

“We have support coming in from all faiths and non-profit groups,” he said. “This is not about anyone’s religious affiliation, but this is about helping people in their time of need. Whatever disagreements we may bring to the table about religious discussions, everyone is agreeing to set those aside to help these people get established and settled in to their new life here.”

As refugees, the Federal government is granting these immigrants the ability to begin work almost immediately, but FOX23 is told, because the priority was to help people flee the Taliban first and process them later when they are safe, it could be a while before the refugees are allowed to start what is expected to be the American lifestyle many of us already enjoy. Security checks are happening now before any Afghan is allowed to enter the country, and when they arrive in Tulsa, it could be four to six weeks for all of the proper documentation to be filed to allow adults to work and children to attend local public schools.

The refugees will be housed in various types of places depending on what local non-profits can find for them. Some may be quickly moved into an apartment as part of their first home in America. Others may be in a hotel for a few weeks while a place is being found. Some will live with local families in their homes to help them adjust.

There is not set time as to when the first refugees will begin arriving in Tulsa, but they will come on standard commercial passengers airliners and will be greeted at the airport immediately so they don’t have any questions about what’s next when they get to Tulsa.

Anyone interested in donating items or cash can contact Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma. They are asking you to do so before you randomly drop off items that may not be needed or culturally appropriate for a refugee transitioning from the Middle East who may have different life experiences, beliefs, and values as you do.

Refugees will be appropriately vaccinated against COVID-19 before they are allowed to move into their final location.

The group coming to Tulsa is separate from another mass of refugees being resettled in the Oklahoma City metro area.