Thousands of Afghan refugees have been waiting for years to be resettled in a third country.Thousands of Afghans on US military bases are waiting to be resettled. The majority are interpreters and their families who served with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but they cannot return home because the Taliban threatens them and their families with death
In this blog post, we will discuss why so many Afghans wait for years before being relocated
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for interpreters and their families. The Taliban has killed many. It attacks schools, markets, mosques and other public places where people congregate (both men and women). So how can it be safe for these refugees?
Interpreters seek asylum at an American military base in Afghanistan after working with the U.S. troops to keep them safe. They then wait for word that they can come safely to the U.S.
As of September 2017, there were 13,000 Afghans on American military bases waiting for resettlement. By August 2018, this number had risen to 16,000
Why so many Afghans are stuck on bases? There is no quick or easy way to get into the U.S. when you are an asylum seeker, even if you worked for Americans in a war zone. It makes sense to go through the resettlement process on a military base because it is safe and free (you won’t be turned away at the airport or deported) and there is 24/7 medical care available.
But after months or years of waiting on the base, many refugees lose hope. They move back to Kabul where they are not safe and cannot find work. They become poor and hopeless, having lost everything for a chance at safety in America. Most wait because it is dangerous or expensive or difficult to leave the base (you need to buy your own plane ticket).
Some refugees move off the base and live in Kabul without a job or home, which puts them at risk for kidnapping or worse. Many Afghans know that Westerners are rich and pay well. Kidnapping is big business in Afghanistan and it can be hard to escape. Not many make it out alive if they go it alone .
But there is another reason refugees on bases cannot leave. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not want to take financial responsibility for them if they are dropped off at American airports, even though it is safer than Kabul, where 500 people are kidnapped every month .
Why? Because the U.S. government says that Afghans who come to the U.S. have a right to an attorney and that it would be too expensive for DHS to provide with every refugee
What does this mean? It means that the Afghans stuck on bases are not able to hire an attorney as American citizens can, which gives the refugees little hope of getting to America unless they are sponsored by an aid organization .
But the sponsorship process is for U.S. citizens or residents, not refugees stuck on bases outside America who are seeking asylum
So there are thousands of Afghans stuck in limbo, waiting to be resettled in a third country where they can start their lives again. Unfortunately, less than 1% of them will ever get that chance
*This blog post is based on the article Resettlement Hold Refugees Wait for Exits at U.S. Military Bases in Kabul by Annabell Van den Berghe, January 23, 2018
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