Home World Afghan visa applicants arrive in the US after years of waiting

Afghan visa applicants arrive in the US after years of waiting

Afghan visa applicants arrive in the US after years of waiting

WASHINGTON – The first group of Afghans promised refuge by the Biden government to help the United States during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, landed on American soil early Friday and began a new life chapter after years of waiting.

About 250 Afghan interpreters, executives and others who worked with the U.S. military, as well as their relatives, arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington after traveling more than 30 hours from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

From Dulles, they are off to Fort Lee, Va, south of Richmond, where they will stay at a hotel base for about a week to complete their processing before being permanently relocated to the United States, officials said.

The late-night arrival was at the forefront of an initial group of about 2,500 Afghans who were evacuated under threat of retaliation from the Taliban in an effort the White House calls Operation Allies Refuge. Groups of Afghans will arrive by plane approximately every three days and be transported to Fort Lee, one U.S. official said arrangements have been made.

The officials stayed at the sprawling military base about 20 miles south of Washington, on the dedicated floors of the hotel, where private security would be rather than military police to ensure their safety.

An additional 4,000 Afghans who have worked with U.S. troops but whose applications have yet to be approved, and their families, will travel to other countries in the coming weeks to complete the visa process before coming to the United States, officials said. said.

The United States is negotiate with Qatar and Kuwait to house thousands of Afghans in military bases in those countries for up to several months while completing their visa applications and awaiting approval to come to the United States. Diplomats are discussing similar arrangements with Kazakhstan and Kosovo, one official said.

Many of the interpreters who have just arrived have long been targets of the Taliban for their cooperation with US troops during the war. Their passage was promised under two special visa programs drawn up by Congress, but the documentation and security requirements degenerated many applicants.

About 18,000 Afghans have been caught in a bureaucratic limbo after applying for special immigrant visas, which are available to people threatened with jobs for the US government. The applicants have 53,000 family members, U.S. officials said.

Many more are still trapped as Taliban fighters tighten their grip on the countryside. The government was opaque about who exactly would receive passage, and many feared they would never be found.

On Thursday, Congress agreed to expand the number of special immigrant visas available to Afghans to 19,000 from 11,000 and broaden the number of eligible people by removing some application requirements. The measure, which is part of a $ 2.1 billion emergency spending bill, also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for government programs that help and resettle refugees and migrants.

Mr. Biden and other top government officials say they are committed to helping Afghans who have faced dangers and hardships to help the United States during its longest war. “It’s one of our moral obligations to help people who have helped us,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said Saturday.

Military veterans, some members of Congress and refugee groups have insisted on speeding up the evacuations. But concerns that a processing error could lead to a security incident kept the pressure under control, said several people who have spoken to administrative officials over the past few weeks.

“Realistically, one cannot bring 20,000 interpreters directly to the United States,” said Mary Kaszynski, the director of government relations at VoteVets, a veteran organization that has focused on the issue for years, because many members close stick to the interpreters they worked with. Afghanistan. “It would not be safe, it would not be good for American interests and therefore they had to apply a phased approach.”