U.S. President Joe Biden has authorized up to $ 100 million from an emergency fund to meet “unexpectedly urgent” refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan applicants for special immigration visas, the White House declared.
Biden also signed on Friday the release of $ 200 million in services and items from the records of U.S. government actions to meet the same needs, the White House declared.
The United States is planning to evacuate thousands of Afghan applicants for special immigration visas (SIVs) threatened by the Taliban because they have worked for the US government.
The first group of evacuees and their families are expected to be flown to Fort Lee, a U.S. military base in Virginia, before the end of the month, where they will remain for the final processing of their visa requests.
About 2,500 Afghans could be brought to the facility, about 48 miles south of Richmond, the Pentagon said Monday.
The Biden administration is investigating other facilities in the US and abroad where SIV applicants and their families can be accommodated.
Special immigrant visas are open to Afghans who worked as translators or in other jobs for the US government after the 2001.
ON THURSDAY, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would expand the number of SIVs that could be granted by 8,000, covering all eligible applications in the pipeline. About 18,000 such applications are processed, U.S. officials say.
At a consulting office in a shopping mall in the commercial center of the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, about two dozen men had not yet heard of Biden’s latest promise on Saturday morning.
What is most important to them is to get out as quickly as possible.
“Everything here is too insecure and we need to get our families out before things go bad,” Ahmad Bilal, 26, told Al Jazeera.
Like the others who congregate in the small office next to an excellent steakhouse, Bilal said the biggest obstacle right now is bureaucracy. He said the majority of SIV applicants have little clarity in the process, and consulting firms like these are overworked and overcrowded.
“This office only answers basic questions, it’s just a guideline because there is no specific system in place.”
Bilal, who worked with U.S. troops for one year, said promises of additional funds should be made to improve the quality and breadth of such services.
“At the moment there is no way to get in direct contact with the embassies, and these offices are too many.”
Several of the men at the office said they waited hours to answer even basic questions by the two staff at their computers.
There is also the issue of contact with their old superiors, some of whom have not been to Afghanistan in half a decade.
‘You spend months on Facebook and WhatsApp trying to find them and when it happens; they say they have no more authority and do not know what they can do for you since they left their jobs.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government said on Friday it would quickly locate the resettlement of potentially thousands of Afghans who had worked with Canada over the past twenty years, but provided little information on who would be eligible or when people would start arriving.
The government came under pressure from Canadian veterans who feared that Afghans supporting them and their families would be arrested and even killed in the hands of the Taliban.
“For the protection and security of the Afghans, as well as the Canadian teams already on the ground, we need to protect the exact details of how this process will be carried out, as well as exactly when it will intiate,” declared Minister of Immigration, Marco Mendicino.