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Afghanistan’s Neighbors to Close Borders to Refugees

Families board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 24, 2021. (Sergeant Samuel Ruiz/USMC)

Afghanistan’s neighbors have shut their borders to Afghan refugees until western countries offer a guarantee that they will not remain there for more than ten days after arriving.

BBC World Services’ Middle East correspondent Nafiseh Kohnavard has reported that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan have closed their borders to Afghans as they are unsure how willing  the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany will be accept the refugees after a brief stay within the first group’s borders. 

 

The report comes as western countries rush to process and relocate Afghan refugees in the wake of a rushed and dangerous U.S. evacuation effort that came to a close on August 31.

The Biden administration has reportedly told refugee resettlement organizations across the U.S. to prepare to assist as many as 50,000 Afghans who will be arriving in the U.S. in the coming weeks without visas, but has not provided these organizations exact figures according to the Wall Street Journal.

Refugee resettlement groups have not been told which of the impending arrivals will come with approved Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) that will allow them to receive a number of helpful social services, including months of healthcare and food assistance. 

Afghans who arrive without visas will rely instead on private donations. These people will be allowed to enter the U.S. as part of an immigration program known as humanitarian parole that grants people temporary permission to enter the country

Meanwhile, the hurried nature of the evacuation raises questions about how well the U.S. can possibly vet the incoming refugees. 

While Afghans with SIVs have already been vetted, as they were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies has argued that it will be “literally impossible” to vet many Afghans given the lack of record-keeping in their home country.

Even if the vetting process uncovers incriminating information about a refugee, the U.S. can’t deport them back to Afghanistan or release them in a country that has agreed to temporarily host refugees while vetting takes place.

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