The State Department is offering potential refugee status to new categories of Afghans who helped the United States during the war in Afghanistan, including those who have worked for the news media and non-governmental organizations.
The ministry announced in an announcement on Monday that the measure was intended to protect Afghans “who may be at risk because of their affiliation with the US,” but who were not eligible for a special immigrant visa program that has started with it , Thousands of Afghans and their family members.
The White House is under heavy pressure to protect Afghans who have worked with the US military for the past 20 years and who may face Taliban reprisals if the United States withdraws its troops from Afghanistan. As the Taliban gains territorial gains across the country, Biden government officials and prominent members of Congress are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by ties to the United States.
The first plane load of more than 200 Afghan interpreters, drivers and other US military aides arrived in the Washington area last week to relocate them as part of a government initiative under two special visa programs prepared by Congress.
Congress created the Special Immigrant Visa Program to provide refuge to Afghans and Iraqis who have helped the US military. But the State Department’s actions on Monday reflected concerns that the program is still putting many Afghans with US ties at risk.
Last month, a coalition of news media organizations – including The New York Times, along with The Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, and several others – sent letters to President Biden and the leaders of Congress urging them to take further action To undertake protection of Afghans who had worked as reporters, translators and support staff for the US media in Afghanistan.
The letters indicated that the special immigrant visa program “did not reach the Afghans who served US news organizations. But they and their families face the same threat of retaliation from the Taliban that the American press see as a legitimate target. “
The Taliban “long waged a campaign of threats and killing of journalists,” the letter read, and estimated that around 1,000 Afghans were at risk because of their journalistic affiliations.
The refugee program will also provide shelter for Afghans who worked on US government-funded programs and projects in the country, as well as non-governmental organizations long targeted by the Taliban.
The State Department said Afghans who fail to meet the minimum tenure of the special immigrant visa program would also be granted potential refugee status.
Those eligible for the program would undergo a “comprehensive security clearance” before being allowed to relocate to the United States as refugees, the department said.
While it offers relocation opportunities to new categories of Afghans, the United States continues to work to protect thousands more who have helped the military and are eligible for the special immigrant visa program.
Approximately 2,500 Afghans are being relocated to Fort Lee, Virginia, as part of an effort known by the White House as Operation Allies Refuge to remove them while they are completing their visa and permanent relocation applications in the United States.
Federal officials say around 4,000 more Afghans in the middle of the application process will soon be flown to other countries along with their immediate families before those who have been granted visas are taken to the United States.