According to The New Republic magazine, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to streamline the process for Afghan citizens’ Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) applications, thousands remain stuck in Afghanistan awaiting their fate, due to “bureaucratic hurdles, institutional erosion, and a significant backlog of applications.”
Shawn VanDiver, president and chair of the board of #AfghanEvac, told the magazine that he estimates around 200,000 to 300,000 SIV applicants still remain in Afghanistan. He added that these people could be made to wait “months or even years”.
Matthew Zeller, a senior adviser to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and co-founder of No One Left Behind, warned that if the US fails to fulfil its commitment to the people left behind in Afghanistan, future allies may not believe what they are promised.
“People like me, who served in uniform in Afghanistan, looked our Afghan allies in the eyes and verbally and in writing made these people a promise that [since] they served alongside us in our moment of need, should they find themselves in duress because of that service, we would stand by them in their moment of need, and see them to safety. And for the better part of 300,000-plus people, we have not kept that promise,” he said.
For Matthew Zeller, at the current pace, it would take 20 years for the backlog of applications to be processed. “These people don’t have 20 years. The Taliban have a systemic, countrywide effort to hunt them down and murder them. Most of them will be dead, if they aren’t already, within the next two years,” he told the magazine.
Deepa Alagesan, a senior supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP), criticized the Biden administration for not setting a clear time limit within which applications are processed.“The fact that there is no timeline already is a huge problem, because there’s no commitment to getting people’s cases pushed through on a certain schedule,” he said.
And Shawn VanDiver said the lack of support in Congress for the Afghan Adjustment Act, which failed to get through last December and is yet to be brough back to be voted on again is “frankly shameful.”
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The US and allies evacuated tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, many of whom were taken to third countries, such as Qatar, the UAE, and Albania, to be processed for permanent settlement.
According to a Human Rights Watch report published on Wednesday, thousands of evacuees are still being held in “prison-like” detention centres in Abu Dhabi, where they have no access to good quality food and shelter, as well as clarity on their refugee status.
The US State Department, Human Rights Watch said, was aware of the evacuee’s situation.
Joey Shea, the Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch told KabulNow:
“The detainees are kept in appalling conditions with no hope of a way out. They are stuck in complete limbo, without access to anyone dealing with their resettlement cases from the US or other countries. Many have never been spoken to and may not even be registered anywhere. That needs to change.
“We have not heard from the UNHCR on whether they have access to these people. The US State Department said the UN refugee agency has limited access.”
According to reports, Australia has also stopped processing resettlement applications from Afghanistan.