Nebraska Resettlement Org Expects Afghan Refugee Families Over Next Six Months

Aug. 31, 2021, 4:30 p.m. ·

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska website
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska helps with refugee resettlement, including necessities and housing. (From LFS website)

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An organization that helps resettle refugees from other countries says it expects upwards of 100 families to arrive in Nebraska from Afghanistan, some of them as soon as this week.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska assists refugees with immediate necessities, like food and clothing, but also with more long-term housing and employment needs. President and CEO Chris Tonniges said the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan could happen fairly quickly.

“We could start hearing as soon as Thursday for this next wave of refugees with anticipation that once they start, we will see a fairly consistent stream of refugees for roughly about six months,” Tonniges said.

Chris Tonniges
Lutheran Family Service of Nebraska President and CEO Chris Tonniges. (Photo from Zoom)

Most of the refugees will have some sort of special immigrant visa status that will make their path to citizenship easier, but some won’t have any documentation and little more than a bag of clothing. Tonniges said they usually have more lead time to get ready for refugees and are working to get the resources that are needed in place.

“We’re very quickly trying to rally both community resources but then kind of internal partnerships that we have with other organizations, landlords across the communities that we typically place refugees and trying to get those up-to-speed on a much more rapid basis,” Tonniges said.

For refugees exhausted from travel and living in a war-torn country, Nebraska is a good place to end up.

“Nebraska’s got roughly about a 35-year history of resettlement, especially of the Afghan people, and so that community is several hundred people strong, not only here in Omaha, but in surrounding communities, and so they have people they can come and relate to almost immediately,” Tonniges said.

Refugees will most likely end up in the eastern third of the state, including in Omaha and Lincoln, but Lutheran Family Services is working to get areas in the central and western parts of the state open for resettlement as well.