FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 4, 2022
Spencer Tilger | firstname.lastname@example.org
PRESS CALL OFFERS REMINDER OF CONTINUED U.S. OBLIGATIONS TO AFGHANS, ONE YEAR AFTER START OF WITHDRAWAL AND EVACUATION
Access an Audio Recording of Today’s Call HERE
(New York, NY) – On a press call held earlier today, advocates and experts reflected on the one year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation process that accompanied it. The speakers detailed the continued need for the United States to fulfill its moral, congressional, and court-ordered obligations to protect tens of thousands of Afghans at risk, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program applicants, human rights defenders, and women and children at risk.
“Sarbaz”, an International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) client and SIV applicant left behind by the evacuation, delivered a pre-recorded message: “I traveled around the country dismantling land mines placed by the Taliban. I applied for my SIV years ago but I am still waiting. For the past year I have been hiding because I know the Taliban is looking for me. We are running out of food and out of money. I cannot go outside or get the medical help I need. We are living like prisoners. Afghans like me put our own lives in danger to save thousands of American troops. When you needed us we stood by you, and now we need you to stand with us as well. I’m asking President Biden to please listen to us and hear our voices. Our lives depend on it.”
Joseph Azam, Board Chair, Afghan-American Foundation (AAF), stated: “The U.S. has come up with such creative ways to break promises to Afghans, but that creativity never seems to be applied to solutions. It’s been clear from day one that this withdrawal was hasty, and it’s been clear that the hope of the administration was to turn the page quickly and hope that the public would clear their psyches. That is absolutely not what happened. There is a unified, strong, and relentless group of advocates that will not let that happen, but we need the help of the American public. I’m heartened by the fact that more Americans seem to be paying attention and it’s our hope that they continue to do so.”
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), said: “We now have 80,000 new Afghan neighbors in communities across the country, and our nation is all the stronger for it. They are resilient, driven, talented, and eager to contribute to the country that so many of them served alongside during America’s longest war. However, the challenges they face are far from over. Our nation must bring to bear every tool at its disposal to provide a warm welcome, bring their family members to safety, and address the tenuous legal limbo they find themselves in.”
Chris Purdy, Director of Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach, Human Rights First, stated: “Congress must pass and President Biden must sign an Afghan Adjustment Act. This critical legislation will ensure that thousands of afghans brought during the evacuation and thousands more find a welcoming home here in the United States, by being quickly and fully resettled. Second, the US must create more pathways for Afghans to come here, beyond the traditional SIV or P2 programs that we have heard so much about. Many Afghans have been left out of these programs and are actively being hunted by the Taliban – we must give them a way to seek refuge. Finally, the administration must process applications and resettle people quickly… We must help every Afghan who needs assistance quickly, efficiently, and without delay.”
Kim Staffieri, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Association of Wartime Allies (AWA), shared quotes from fellow veterans (available here), and said: “I come here today to raise awareness on the emotional toll, the moral injury, specifically facing our U.S. veterans as they continue their effort to complete their mission of ‘no man left behind.’ For veterans, the failure to process SIV applications is a failure to protect the lives of our colleagues and friends. Afghan allies worked alongside and saved the lives of American soldiers, and the U.S. has done far too little to protect them.”
Sunil Varghese, Policy Director, IRAP, said: “For the past year, IRAP, and our colleagues from the Evacuate Our Allies coalition have done everything possible to convey this urgency to the Biden administration, while offering concrete and actionable steps they can take today to make pathways to safety work for Afghans at risk. What we are seeing are small improvements, improvements that can make all the difference for an individual, but that are not nearly commensurate with the size and gravity of the task. The U.S. military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan may have ended last August, but the U.S. government’s obligations did not. The presence of everyone on this call shows that Afghans and advocates will continue to push until real progress is made.”
Additional Background and Resources:
One year after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation for at-risk Afghans remains dire. The evacuation left the majority of Afghans who worked with the United States behind, as well as tens of thousands of other Afghans who are at immediate risk of being targeted by the Taliban. Afghan humanitarian parole applications are not being processed, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) processing remains plagued by systemic delays. The U.S. government has done little to alleviate these delays, and even filed a motion to be relieved of a court-ordered plan to speed up SIV processing. Meanwhile, Afghans who did manage to reach the United States are in the country on parole and have no clear path to permanent status.
- Read about IRAP’s ongoing SIV lawsuit, Afghan & Iraqi Allies v. Blinken: HERE
- Read about AAF, AWA, and VFAI’s recent briefs supporting SIV plaintiffs in Allies: HERE
- Read a report by IRAP, InterAction, and Human Rights First about options to make humanitarian pathways viable for at-risk Afghans: HERE
- Read IRAP’s recommendations to rebuild the U.S. refugee program: HERE
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.