Refugee service providers request compassion for Afghans coming to Utah

Sep 15, 2021, 6:00 AM
Compassion Afghans...
An Afghan man carries a girl as he and other refugees arrive at a processing center in Chantilly, Va., on Monday after arriving on a flight at Dulles International Airport. (Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Refugee families who fled Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal and collapse of the Aghan government could use a lot of support when they arrive in Utah. 

Wanted: compassion for Afghans 

In addition to housing, employment, orientation to a new home, and the other necessities of life, Afghan refugees resettling in Utah need compassion and understanding. 

“They bring a unique perspective and they have had life experiences that many of us cannot even imagine,” said Asha Parekh, director of the Utah Refugee Services Office. “Yet, they’re coping and they’re moving on.” 

Parekh explained how many of these refugees sacrificed tremendously when they left their homes in Afghanistan. 

Catholic Community Services of Utah Refugee Resettlement Program Manager, Mark Burton, echoed that message. 

“They are human beings, first and foremost, who have happened to go through some publicly acknowledged traumatic experiences,” Burton said. “But at the end of the day, they’re humans just like me and you.” 

However, she also pointed out how resettled refugees enrich the communities they join. 

“What we have seen and what the data shows, even from the federal government, is that refugees contribute economically to the community way more than they actually take,” Parekh said. 

Burton said refugees arriving here are entering an unfamiliar environment, whether they are coming from Afghanistan or the Republic of Congo. 

The language barrier can often be the most difficult to overcome. 

“You have so many ideas that you want to express….intelligent thoughts….opinions….hopes and dreams as well. So, it can be frustrating not being able to express those fluently with all of your neighbors and all of those around you,” said Burton. 

Utah is known for its welcoming spirit

The Beehive State is somewhat famous for being a place where refugees will receive a warm welcome

Despite the pleas from local refugee services oragnizations, Utahns are already lining up to offer support. 

“All of us that work in refugee work have been getting calls from individuals, organizations, corporations, and religious support,” said Parekh. 

Parekh said the letter Utah Gov. Spencer Cox sent to President Joe Biden welcoming refugees from Afghanistan to be settled here showed his dedication to helping those in need.  

She says the response from communities around the state has been overwhelming. 

“The outpouring of support has been just incredible,” Parekh shared. 

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Refugee service providers request compassion for Afghans coming to Utah