Afghan Refugees Say Lutheran Social Services Failed to Deliver Promised Resettlement Services

The US State Department is investigating allegations that National Capital Region Lutheran Social Services, a refugee resettlement agency in the Washington, DC area, abused Afghan refugees.

Sources said US News and World Report that some Lutheran Social Services employees in the National Capital Region not only failed to deliver on their promises to provide food, housing and other services, but also falsified documents, stole funds and mishandled documents sensitive while receiving significant bonuses.

Agencies that contract with the government to provide services to refugees receive $2,275 per person to provide safe housing, food, clothing and cash for emergency expenses, and are required to make two home visits with the refugees within 30 days of their arrival and help them with any other needs they have.

But some Afghan refugees told the magazine they were living in poor conditions, struggling to reach their social workers and, in many cases, had never been visited by a social worker.

They described social workers as “inexperienced and overwhelmed” and said they often did not go through the process of obtaining the government documents required to work or receive benefits in the United States.

Some have complained of late rent checks and inappropriate, unfurnished or unsanitary accommodations, including a family housed in an extended-stay hotel with bedbugs.

Sources said American News that refugees – many of whom are well-educated Afghans – were treated less well by staff members if they were less educated or spoke a different native language, but treated better if they had close ties to the United States or were relatives of staff members.

Lutheran Social Services NCA said it worked with an accounting firm and a law firm to investigate the allegations and that its parent organization also looked into the complaints – both of which found no evidence of wrongdoing.

A State Department official said American News the agency could not answer specific questions about the case, but that the agency saw little cause for concern and that, proportionally, complaints were few.

“Every time we follow up, we haven’t found negligence, (but) we’ve found there are unrealistic expectations,” the spokesperson said.

A 2021 third-party financial audit reviewed by the magazine found no financial misconduct.

The US government has spent nearly $1.5 billion on refugee resettlement over the past year, including $221 million for Lutheran Social Services’ parent organization, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which resettled more than 12,000 Afghan refugees in the United States. Lutheran Social Services in the National Capital Region resettled over 4,500 Afghan refugees.

“We are committed to serving our community with excellence,” the agency said in a statement to american news, adding: “We welcome and respond to all concerns brought to our attention.”

Anne Stych is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and content manager covering science, technology, retail and more. She writes for American City Business Journals’ BizWomen. This story originally appeared on MinistryWatch.

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