Saturday was intended to mark the commencement of the Biden presidency’s increased efforts to aid Afghan comrades left behind. However, Afghans referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) with Priority-1, and Priority-2 referrals remain in the dark regarding referral processing delays.
The State Department did not respond to any inquiries regarding the start date and duration of sorting just days before the supposed implementation of changes. Applicants who spoke described extreme challenges caused by the administration’s inaction.
The United States is committed to welcoming more refugees in the upcoming fiscal year through a strengthened refugee admissions program. https://t.co/HbDjF6KbWX
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) September 28, 2022
Because USRAP procedures must occur from outside Afghanistan for 12 to 18 months, nine applicants have relocated to Pakistan. Two of these applicants stated that they relocated after being referred to the USRAP, but they have not yet obtained case numbers. Although they do not have confirmation, they are probably among the 21,000 out of 46,000 candidates that were not admitted into the system, according to a State Department spokesperson. Whether they have case numbers or not, all Afghan refugees in Pakistan struggle to afford the high cost of living in a country where refugees are prohibited from working. Many applicants report that they are unable to access healthcare, and their kids are unable to start classes.
USRAP processing cannot begin for applicants with pending cases until they are assigned to a Resettlement Support Center. Although the applicants from Pakistan who spoke have been in the United States for at least 6 months, none have been allocated to a Resettlement Support Center. Numerous candidates have overstayed their visas and are now subject to hefty fines from the Pakistani government. Some candidates sought refugee status through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. According to these applicants, the organization has ignored their requests for assistance. The UNHCR has not replied to my inquiries on these allegations.
The horrific stories of individuals exemplify the impacts of U.S. inactivity. Priority-2 candidate Mohibullah, who relocated to Pakistan in February 2022, reported making hundreds of phone calls, complaints, and e-mails to the UNHCR pleading for assistance. Mohibullah stated that he could not rent a home for his household of eight because his visa had expired.
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Priority-one applicant Arash stated that he has resided in a deteriorating Pakistani refugee camp since April 2022. According to him, his children have become ill due to the conditions. To survive, Arash engages in illicit work.
Faiz stated that his Priority-2 candidate mother was a well-known Afghan television host. She has still not left her residence in Pakistan for six months out of fear of being recognized and killed. Faiz stated that his father, a Priority-2 applicant, works unlawfully for 12 hours each day to pay the family’s rent and provide two meals daily.
Halima, the applicant, came to Pakistan when she was 7 months pregnant and approximately eight months ago. As a refugee, she was compelled to give birth in a packed hospital staffed by unfocused physicians. Without income, surviving in Pakistan has been a formidable challenge.
Despite the Pakistani government’s announcement of amnesty for all foreigners with overstayed visas who depart before December 31, 2022, Zarmina, a Priority-1 applicant, reports that Pakistani police just visited her residence to inform her of her family’s impending deportation. Zarmina stated, “We are between hell and the grave.”
Priority-2 candidate Ismail rented his Afghanistan home and apartment for $18,000 to make ends meet while they awaited clearance in Pakistan. Since their entrance in April 2022, fifty percent of this sum has been expended. With just rumors regarding the commencement of USRAP processing, he claims that many Afghan applicants “believe that the U.S. administration has forgotten about us.”
While most candidates who revealed their stories have relocated to Pakistan, a few still reside in Afghanistan. Qudratullah, a Priority-2 applicant and applicant for a special immigrant visa, has not yet obtained his Pakistan visa. He must frequently migrate to Afghanistan to evade capture by the Taliban.
Allies anticipating USRAP processing are confronted with uncertainties, economic difficulties, and security concerns. Many have endured a year to get word from the U.S. government regarding the clearance of their case or a schedule for the start of their processing. They deserve considerably more. They merit action from President Joe Biden.