The U.S. Must Deliver on its Commitment to Afghan Allies, Not Send Them to a Third Country
WASHINGTON -- With the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan proceeding swiftly, the fate of more than 17,000 Afghans who served American forces and may be eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) is of renewed concern. While there is emerging bipartisan agreement that the United States must take action on this issue, there are profound differences between an ill-considered evacuation and true humanitarian protections for these American allies.
Human Rights First is working to ensure that Afghans are brought to a U.S. territory where they can have access to the U.S. immigration system rather than sent to any third country where they may not have the same protections.
“These Afghans are American allies who often put their lives at risk for U.S. service members. Because of this indispensable help to U.S. forces, their lives are in danger in Afghanistan,” said Chris Purdy, director of Veterans For American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First. “The American military takes very seriously its promise to never abandon those who fought with us. As the Department of Defense plans its evacuation of our allies, they must remember their responsibility is to bring them to safety in United States territory, not drop them in a third country to fend for themselves.”
To ensure that Afghans who are going through the SIV program are protected, it is imperative that we use American territory such as Guam as a staging ground for the remainder of their screenings and assessment. Housing Afghans on American territory allows our immigration services to efficiently and appropriately vet SIVs, while significantly reducing operational costs. This operation must begin now and the Biden administration must coordinate with state and local officials, in Guam or elsewhere, to ensure a seamless welcome of our Afghan allies.
Evacuations to a third country would require far more diplomatic effort that might strain intercountry relationships. It might also pose a danger to any Afghans who have problems with their paperwork or applications. Afghans sent to countries that are not signatories of the Refugee Convention or do not have functioning asylum systems, like the UAE, Kuwait, or Bahrain would be at risk of being returned to danger.
“These are American allies in danger because of their service to the U.S mission in Afghanistan; the U.S. needs to meet its commitment to them,” said Purdy.