Data from the State Department shows that the US has taken in fewer than 500 refugees from Afghanistan this year.
485 Afghan refugees have been resettled since January and 494 since the 2021 fiscal year began last October, according to the State Department.
The 2016 fiscal year under former President Barack Obama saw more than 2,700 Afghan refugees admitted in the US. As many as 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan are registered with the United Nations’ Refugee Agency.
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This comes as President Joe Biden faces pressure from Democrats to help Washington’s former partners in Afghanistan after the August 15 collapse of the civilian government.
According to the International Rescue Committee, “over 300,000 Afghan civilians have been “affiliated” with the US military, but only 16,000 have been issued Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), which is separate from the refugee program.”
“Around 2,000 of those applicants have been evacuated in recent months but as many as 50,000 applicants remain in the country,” Roll Call reported.
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While Afghans and refugee advocates have pleaded to boost the pace of resettlements in the months leading up to the planned withdrawal of US forces, the US is likely to admit only close to 600 refugees by next fiscal year, at the current pace.
“The US needs to seize this moment to avert further humanitarian catastrophe and ensure that thousands of Afghans stuck in limbo and in serious danger of Taliban reprisals are offered save haven,” Denise Bell, a researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International, told Insider. “Words must be put into action immediately.”
Insider reported earlier this month, “the US is set to accept fewer than 10,000 refugees this fiscal year, the lowest number since the modern resettlement program began. In 1980, by contrast, the US accepted more than 200,000 refugees.”
According to experts, the low numbers this year are because of the last administration dismantling the resettlement program.
Sunil Varghese, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project, also blamed a lack of urgency.
“It is easy to think that this was inevitable because of COVID-19 or the previous administration’s anti-refugee policies. But that’s not necessarily the case,” he said. “More could have and should have been done.”