Washington, DC – In remarks to the press today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States but who do not qualify for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) under Operation Allies Refuge. The Priority-2, or P-2, designation, grants access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for many of these Afghans and their family members.
“We take our responsibility to our Afghan partners deeply seriously, and we know the American people do as well. We have a long history in the United States of welcoming refugees into our country. And helping them resettle into new homes and new communities is the work of a huge network of state and local governments, NGOs, faith-based groups, advocacy groups, tens of thousands of volunteers,” said Blinken.
Outlining the process earlier today, a senior state department official said that individuals cannot apply directly, but have to be referred by their employer through WRAPSNET.org. Unlike the SIV process, applicants have to get themselves out of Afghanistan at their own expense before processing of their caseload can even begin, and the processing can take from 12-14 months.
Those eligible for the P-2 program include:
-Afghans who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for a SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support;
-Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;
-Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.
Meanwhile, two groups of special immigrant visa applicants relocated under Operation Allies Refuge – around 400 people – have arrived at Fort Lee, Virginia.
With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation continues to deteriorate. Clashes between the Afghan government forces and the Pakistan-backed Taliban outside Herat city on Friday, forced residents to flee, and the UN’s main compound in Herat was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. Kandahar airport also came under Taliban rocket attack.
The deteriorating security situation post the US announcement of withdrawal of most of its contingent has forced India, which is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, to evacuate 50 diplomats and staff members from its consulate in Kandahar. While the US may evacuate some of the Afghans who supported its mission, the situation is expected to be grim for those remaining, especially women and minorities.
Poonam is a veteran multi-media journalist and Editor of Global Strat View.