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“The U.S. Can Do So Much More”: IRAP Compares Ukrainian and Afghan Protection Efforts


April 26, 2022


Spencer Tilger | | (646) 761-2556


In light of launch of Ukraine parole program, IRAP urges U.S. to improve access to humanitarian relief for at-risk Afghans and others

(New York, NY) – Yesterday afternoon, the Biden administration began accepting applications through Uniting for Ukraine, a dedicated parole program for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) commends the Biden administration on its responsiveness to the immense need of displaced Ukrainians. The swiftness with which the administration created the program and its commitment to processing applicants efficiently show that the U.S. can respond effectively and creatively to emerging displacement crises if it chooses to. In contrast, the treatment of Afghans seeking safety does not mirror these same commitments. IRAP has identified at least three areas of differential treatment between humanitarian relief options for Afghans in the wake of the American withdrawal and Uniting for Ukraine that highlight what the administration can do, if willing: 

  1. Application fees: As should be standard for all humanitarian protection programs, the Biden administration announced that there will be no fees to access the Uniting for Ukraine program. This stands in stark contrast to the $575 fee charged for each of the more than 40,000 humanitarian parole applications submitted by Afghans since July 2021, most of which remain unadjudicated.
  2. Proof of targeted violence: Uniting for Ukraine will be open to Ukrainian citizens who can prove they resided in the country as of February 11, 2022, and were displaced as a result of the Russian invasion. There is no requirement that Ukrainians must provide evidence that they were specifically targeted by the Russian military or President Putin. In stark contrast, Afghan citizens applying for humanitarian parole must provide proof of individualized, targeted violence by the Taliban—a requirement that is both unnecessary and unreasonable.
  3. Efficiency: The program’s language states that it was designed to bypass the long wait times faced by other humanitarian parole applicants, many of whom are Afghan. As part of this streamlining, the Biden administration wisely excluded the unnecessary hurdle of a consular processing requirement for Ukrainians, but claimed it could not do the same for Afghans, even after the U.S. no longer had a consular presence in the country. Additionally, while all cases pending with the Kiev embassy were transferred to Frankfurt and other U.S. embassies in Europe, thousands of cases handled by the Kabul embassy have yet to be transferred to a new location.

While Uniting for Ukraine allows U.S. individuals and organizations to quickly apply to bring Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members to the United States, it does not appear to extend this streamlined process to third country nationals residing in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion, who are arguably among the most vulnerable people displaced from Ukraine.

The following is a quote from Adam Bates, Policy Counsel at IRAP:

“IRAP commends the Biden administration for taking concrete action to support Ukrainians displaced by war. However, the speed and creativity with which the administration addressed this need underscores the failure of the U.S. to provide the same level of support to other at-risk nationalities. That includes third country nationals fleeing Ukraine, who have been disturbingly excluded from this program, as well as Afghans escaping the Taliban, many of whom risked their own lives supporting the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. 

Time and time again, the U.S. government has claimed there is nothing more it can do to protect at-risk Afghans. Even as the U.S. withdrew its troops and the Taliban made rapid advances through the country, U.S. agencies dragged their feet and threw up their hands at logistical obstacles of their own making, all while Afghans spent millions of dollars on application fees for humanitarian programs it now appears the U.S. never had a real plan to administer. The Uniting for Ukraine program shows that if the Biden administration truly cared about its promise to protect Afghans, the U.S. can do so much more. It should start now.”

Additional Information

  • Read IRAP’s response to the Biden administration’s announcement of the Uniting for Ukraine program: HERE
  • Read IRAP’s press release reflecting on the one year anniversary of the Afghanistan withdrawal announcement: HERE
  • Read a letter to DHS and USCIS signed by IRAP and 200 other organizations requesting a designated parole program for Afghans: HERE
  • Read the November 2021 report from IRAP, InterAction, and Human Rights First, “Fulfilling America’s Promise: Options to Make U.S. Humanitarian Protection Pathways Viable for At-risk Afghans” HERE