US immigration advocates urge swift evacuation of Afghans

Washington, DC – Afghans who labored with the United States in Afghanistan are among the many most susceptible segments of the inhabitants after the Taliban’s takeover of the nation, US immigration advocates and lawmakers are warning.

As US forces quickly paused their mission to evacuate US residents and Afghan particular immigrant visa (SIV) candidates by way of Kabul airport on Monday, many have sounded the alarm that the latter group should not be left behind.

Those fears elevated after footage confirmed tons of of determined Afghans swarming the tarmac on the airport in an effort to depart the nation, with some holding on to a departing US navy plane.

“It’s absolutely critical that the US use all options they can to facilitate the safe and orderly departure of people affiliated with the US,” mentioned JC Hendrickson, senior director of refugee and asylum coverage and advocacy on the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Late on Sunday, the Biden administration mentioned it’s nonetheless dedicated to bringing Afghans who labored with the US through the 20-year conflict to security.

Still, immigration rights advocates wish to see urgency to honour this promise and make up for Washington’s failure to permit Afghans in want of safety to depart earlier than the Taliban’s speedy, countrywide advance noticed the group finally reach Kabul.

Sunil Varghese, coverage director at International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), a New York-based advocacy group, mentioned regardless of the collapse of the Afghan authorities, it isn’t too late to evacuate Afghan civilians.

“We’re not completely out of time; every helicopter out, every aeroplane out means that many more Afghans are able to flee into a protection pathway,” Varghese instructed Al Jazeera. “And so, we just need to make sure that we’re getting more flights out and those flights have Afghans as well as any Americans that are still there.”

SIV programme

Congress launched the SIV programme in 2009 to permit Afghans who feared for his or her security after working with the US to immigrate to the nation with their households. According to the IRC, there are at present about 18,000 purposes within the pipeline and hundreds extra are eligible for the programme, which rights teams mentioned has been plagued with delays and backlogs.

Hendrickson mentioned on Monday that the US ought to develop its efforts and resettle Afghans past the SIV programme.

“The US government should be facilitating the departure of anybody affiliated with the US. We’re prepared to do our part to help once those planes land in the United States; we’re ready to do all we can to help,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

“We just think the situation is so urgent that everybody affiliated with the US that meets the criteria for these programmes, be scheduled for departure as quickly as possible.”

Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), which helps with refugee resettlement, additionally mentioned it was making ready for the arrival of as many as 2,500 Afghans into the Washington, DC, space through the subsequent few weeks.

Afghans are largely arriving by way of SIV, not the refugee resettlement programme, however they nonetheless want resettlement sources as refugees.

“For many, evacuation is a matter of life and death, and we are thrilled to witness the arrival of these heroic individuals and welcome them to our community,” Kristyn Peck, CEO of LSSNCA, mentioned in an announcement final week.

US plans for evacuations

Amid studies that US forces in charge of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul are prioritising the evacuation of Americans, the Pentagon and US State Department issued a joint assertion late on Sunday promising to assist SIV candidates depart Afghanistan.

“At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” the departments mentioned.

“Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control.”

The Taliban reached Kabul on Sunday, and the central authorities within the capital collapsed as President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation, prompting tons of of Afghans to move to the airport in an effort to depart, as properly.

The Pentagon confirmed on Monday that the airport was closed to all flights after yesterday’s chaos, which left at the least seven folks lifeless, however the division mentioned later within the day that operations for evacuation flights had resumed.

The Pentagon and State Department mentioned they plan to switch hundreds of US residents who’ve resided in Afghanistan, in addition to native workers on the US mission in Kabul and their households, and different susceptible Afghan residents, in another country.

They added that candidates who’ve handed a “security screening” can be transferred to the US instantly whereas others can be evacuated to “additional locations”.

But Varghese of IRAP mentioned all candidates have to be allowed to resettle within the US, explaining that Washington can challenge “paroles” to permit folks with out visas to return into the nation. He mentioned there isn’t any assure that the candidates’ rights can be revered in a 3rd nation.

“They need to be here in the US because we don’t know if they’re sent to Kuwait, Qatar or Albania, what happens?” Varghese mentioned of SIV candidates. “Where are they going to be? Who’s going to feed them? How long are they going to be there? What are their rights?”

He added that the Biden administration wasted time in failing to safe the departure of Afghans who labored with the US months in the past “as soon as it was clear that the US was going forward with the withdrawal”.

US President Biden defended the delay in evacuating Washington’s Afghan allies, saying in a televised tackle on Monday that a few of the causes behind it have been out of Washington’s management.

“Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country,” he mentioned. “And part of it because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organising a mass exodus to avoid triggering – as they said, a ‘crisis of confidence’.”

Biden additionally introduced plans to develop resettlement past the SIV programme to incorporate Afghans who labored for the US embassy, non-governmental organisations and information companies, in addition to “Afghans who otherwise are at great risk”.

Lawmakers converse out

The push to resettle susceptible Afghans into the US has loved bipartisan help regardless of Republicans’ wariness of immigration programmes. On Monday, a number of members of Congress known as on the administration to push for the evacuation of Afghans.

Progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned Washington has a “moral obligation” to the Afghan folks. “The US role in this crisis is indisputable,” Ocasio-Cortez mentioned on Twitter.

“We must waste no time or expense in helping refugees safely & swiftly leave Afghanistan. We must immediately welcome them to the US & provide real support as they rebuild their lives.”

Senator Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, known as for fast motion to safe the evacuations.

“As the situation in Afghanistan continues to unfold, the US must take immediate action to evacuate Americans, our Afghan allies & the most vulnerable,” he additionally wrote on Twitter.

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, of Hawaii, additionally known as for prioritising the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan civilians.

“We cannot let politics or bureaucratic rules stop us from accepting as many Afghan interpreters and others into the USA as possible,” he tweeted. “There will be a time for analysis and recriminations, but people are in danger right now and we must help.”

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