US refugee rights group urges Washington to protect at-risk Afghans

US refugee rights group urges Washington to protect at-risk Afghans
Refugee advocates want to ensure that at-risk, US-affiliated Afghans can continue to evacuate from Afghanistan, and that those in third countries have a clearer and faster pathway for relocation to the US.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
15 September, 2021
Afghans have been waiting in third countries to get their visas for the US processed [Getty]

As thousands of Afghans continue to try to leave their home country, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has urged the US government to protect them.

Among the New York-based group's concerns is the fate of Afghans still in Afghanistan who qualify for US visas, as well as Afghans who are stuck in transit as their visas are processed in third countries.

“The US got a lot of people out at the last minute. Unfortunately they waited until the eleventh hour," Sunil Varghese, policy director at IRAP, told The New Arab.

"Our concern is the Afghans stuck in danger, those in third countries. We don’t know how long people will be waiting at those bases.

"The question is how long they’ll be there and in nearby countries. What’s the plan?” 

In recommendations published 31 August - the day the US completed its withdrawal of troops from the country - IRAP said the US should continue to evacuate all at-risk Afghans.

Special immigrant visas for these Afghans should be adjudicated within 30 days, or else the applicant should be paroled by the US border service, according to the recommendations.

Paroling means Afghans would be allowed into the country on a case-by-case basis until their visa applications are processed.

Paroled Afghans should be allowed to access refugee resettlement benefits, IRAP said.

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The refugee rights group also wants Congress to pass legislation for a pathway to permanent immigration status for at-risk Afghans in the US.

Overseas, countries hosting large numbers of Afghan refugees must have robust refugee processing.

The US led evacuation efforts from Afghanistan after it had withdrawn most of its troops from the country. Biden and his administration were heavily criticised for pushing forward with the withdrawal as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan.

The US and its allies evacuated over 120,000 people in its mission, but for refugees and their advocates, the idea of declaring the mass evacuation from Afghanistan a success and moving on is premature.

Thousands remain in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands continue to have their paperwork processed in third countries with no clear timeframe for relocation to the US.

“The US still has a moral and legal obligation to continue to evacuate. Not just from Kabul, but also from regional locations. Everyone who is evacuated should be paroled into the US, meaning they shouldn’t be waiting in third countries. We should expedite legal pathways,” Varghese said.

“We’re calling on the administration to adjust their status to permanent residency. Parole is temporary. If they can adjust it so they can get green cards, it would save the government a lot of time and resources, or people will have pending asylum applications for years. It can be done. They just need to take leadership and have courage.”