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16 Feb, 2022 19:40

Thousands of Afghan allies waiting on US visas – media

The US visa program has yet to review thousands of applications from Afghanistan allies, a New York Times report has revealed
Thousands of Afghan allies waiting on US visas – media

Fewer than 2,000 of the 43,000 applications submitted through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ humanitarian parole program have received approval, according to a report from the New York Times, leaving thousands of Afghanistan allies and families in hiding. 

The agency reviewing the applications, however, has taken in millions of dollars thanks to a $575 filing fee attached to each application, according to the report.

The majority of applicants have been allies and their families who missed out on being evacuated as part of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Some of these applications, however, have been denied. Sharif Azizi, who worked with the US as a combat interpreter, said his mother and siblings were told they could apply through the program as they were being sought by Taliban fighters after the group retook Kabul amid the US exit. Azizi, who lives in California, told the New York Times that his family was turned down months after submitting their application to the US program.

“All the certificates of commendation I received, all the promises we got, it feels like a big lie,” he said.

Other US allies have expressed similar disappointment to media outlets about their families waiting long periods for approval under the scheme, or being denied with no explanation. This has left many families marooned in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries, according to reports from the New York Times and others

Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has seen a massive spike in applications through the program, and they say they have hired new adjudicators to help in the review process.

“Humanitarian parole is not intended to replace established refugee processing channels such as the US Refugee Admissions Program, which is the typical pathway for individuals outside of the United States who have fled their country of origin and are seeking protection,” the agency said in a statement. 

The humanitarian parole program is meant to provide an expedited process to certain persons or groups who are in danger or in conflict areas. It was previously used in Vietnam and Iraq. Before the surge in applications from Afghanistan, approximately 2,000 people applied through the parole program a year, with 500 to 700 receiving approval. 

Activists say the standards for the parole program are too high, though, and defeat the purpose of what is supposed to be a quick process. 

More than 200 representatives of various legal service providers, resettlement agencies, and university law clinics sent a letter this week to US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting a more efficient process be put in place to help the tens of thousands in and around Afghanistan awaiting approval on their applications.