WASHINGTON – The Biden administration stepped up efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghan citizens from Afghanistan on Monday as Taliban violence there escalates ahead of the U.S. military’s withdrawal at the end of the month.
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The State Department said it was expanding the number of Afghans eligible for refugee status in the United States to include current and former employees of US-based news agencies, aid agencies and -based development agencies and other relief groups that receive US funding. Current and former employees of the US government and the NATO military operation who do not meet the criteria for a program dedicated to such workers are also covered.
The State Department said the move would mean that “several thousand” Afghans and their immediate families will now have the option of being permanently resettled in the United States as refugees. It did not provide a more precise number of those who might be eligible for the program.
“The US objective remains a peaceful and secure Afghanistan,” he said in a statement. “However, in light of the increased levels of Taliban violence, the US government is working to provide some Afghans, including those who have worked with the United States, the opportunity to resettle refugees in the United States.”
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The creation of a “Priority 2” category for Afghans within the US Refugee Admission Program is intended for Afghans and their immediate families who “may be at risk because of their affiliation with the United States” but do not. cannot get a special immigrant visa because they did not work directly for the United States government or did not hold their government position long enough.
To qualify for the Priority 2 category, Afghans must be nominated by a U.S. government agency or by the longest-serving U.S. citizen of a U.S.-based media outlet or non-government organization.
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The first group of Afghan special immigrant visa applicants – most of whom served as translators or did other work for US troops or diplomats – who passed security checks arrived in the United States on Friday. This group of 221 people is among the 2,500 people who will be brought to the United States in the coming days.
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4,000 other SIV candidates, as well as their families, who have not yet passed the security check should be resettled in third countries before the end of the American withdrawal. About 20,000 Afghans have expressed interest in the program.
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