Network forms to assist Afghan refugees settle in Detroit

(Paul Sancya, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DETROIT – A group of Detroit corporate and community leaders has come together to provide support services to refugees from Afghanistan and other nations as they resettle in the city.

Samaritas, a statewide health and human services organization that operates one of Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement programs, announced the launch of the Detroit Refugee Network on Wednesday.

The network's formation comes at a key time, as refugee resettlement agencies and nonprofits nationwide gear up to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. They have already been hard at work trying to help tens of thousands of asylum-seeking Afghans who fled last year’s Taliban takeover.

“When world events started to occur, we knew we had to respond — and respond boldly and quickly,” Kelli Dobner, chief advancement officer for Samaritas and co-chair of the Detroit Refugee Network, said at a news conference in Detroit.

The network will serve the clients of three resettlement agencies — Samaritas, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan. It is working to raise more than $1 million to provide refugees in Detroit with a full range of services, including housing, education, transportation, legal support and utility assistance.

“Everyone wants opportunity. And in Detroit, we are here to help them and those who want to pursue that American dream," Dr. Sonia Hassan, the network's co-chair and wife of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, said at the event, which was held in the courtyard of an apartment complex that houses resettled Afghan refugees.

More than 650 Afghan refugees have come to southeastern Michigan since 2021 via the three resettlement agencies, with more than 250 planning to settle in Detroit.

Said Urahman, an Afghan who worked as a translator with the U.S. government, arrived in Detroit last year along with his wife, brother and two children. His wife and he since have added to their family — a third child was born three weeks ago.

The 31-year-old said it was a “very difficult decision” because he had “to leave homeland, friends (and) family behind.”

Now, he works for the city government's human resources department and lives in the apartment complex.

“I’m taking it easy, step by step. And I’m already integrated in society,” Urahman said.