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“‘Contact Us’ is Not a Plan”: IRAP Reacts to President Biden Remarks on Afghan Evacuations

The following is a statement from Sunil Varghese, Policy Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), reacting to President Biden’s speech on Afghan evacuations.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

August 20, 2021

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Spencer Tilger
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“‘CONTACT US’ IS NOT A PLAN”: IRAP REACTS TO PRESIDENT BIDEN REMARKS ON AFGHAN EVACUATIONS

(New York, NY) – The following is a statement from Sunil Varghese, Policy Director of the  International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), reacting to President Biden’s speech on Afghan evacuations.

“Today, President Biden repeated his pledge to evacuate Afghan allies and other at-risk populations, but provided few details on how Afghans in danger would be able to leave the country or what would happen to them after being evacuated. 

In response to a question about his message to Afghan allies, President Biden said, ‘We want you to be able to get to the airport. Contact us. We’ll see whatever we can do to get you there. We’ve got to get you out. We are committed to deal with you, your wife and your child.’ 

IRAP stands ready to work with the U.S. government to get Afghans out. Unfortunately, ‘Contact us’ is not a plan. IRAP’s clients have made every effort to contact the U.S. government and either cannot safely get to Kabul or the airport. Even those with airplane tickets and evacuation notices are being turned away from the airport by the Taliban and U.S. military, sometimes by force. Pregnant women have waited for more than 10 hours outside the airport, while others have been tear gassed and shot at.

We invite the President to keep his word and call on him to take the following steps:

  1. Facilitate secure entry to the airport for Afghans, especially those asked to come to the airport, but barred from entry
  2. Increase the number of military and commercial flights leaving Kabul
  3. Take immediate steps to ensure that evacuated Afghans are not languishing in third countries in poor conditions.”

Additional Background

Earlier this week, IRAP filed multiple emergency petitions for protection with the U.S. State Department on behalf of all Afghan applicants in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, demanding the U.S. government fulfill its legal obligation to protect our allies by evacuating them and their families to safety immediately. It is the first time the Department of State has been formally petitioned to exercise its statutory duty under the Afghan Allies Protection Act § 602(b)(6), which requires it to protect SIV applicants when they are in “imminent danger” (View the press release and access a copy of the petitions here). 

Learn more about IRAP’s work advocating for SIV applicants on our website and how to take action to #EvacuateOurAllies.

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) develops and enforces a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.

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