The plight of Afghans who sought refuge in the United States following the Taliban’s takeover has been fraught with uncertainty and danger.
Despite being promised a new home, many have endured prolonged waits for their visa applications to be processed, leading to forced deportations back to Afghanistan—the very enemy they fled.
This article sheds light on the distressing circumstances faced by these individuals, highlighting the urgent need for improved processing and support.
1. Forced Deportations and Fears of Reprisals
Afghans who had collaborated with the US and were informed of their eligibility for resettlement found themselves facing an unsettling reality. Some were forcibly deported from Pakistan, where they had sought safety, back to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s ascension to power in 2021. These deportations occurred despite their ongoing visa processing and documentation indicating their status.
One individual shared his harrowing experience of being dropped at the Afghan border by Pakistani police. “They did not hand us over to the (Taliban) Afghan border forces,” he recounted. “They just released us on the border and told us to go back to Afghanistan. It was me, my four kids, and my wife deported together.” The situation left him and his family living in constant fear and hiding in Kabul.
2. In Peril: Lives on the Line
The dangers faced by these deported Afghans cannot be understated. The threat of persecution, torture, and even death looms over their heads. One deportee, a former US contractor employee, expressed his fears, saying, “The Taliban will punish me; they will put me in jail. Maybe they will kill me? I’m sure they will.” Despite the danger, he still clings to hope, believing that the USA will eventually come to their aid.
It is essential to recognize that these individuals spoke to CNN anonymously, underscoring the real risks they face in revealing their identities.
3. Backlog and Challenges in Visa Processing
The tumultuous situation in Afghanistan caused a massive influx of people fleeing the country, with many seeking refuge across the border in Pakistan. However, the visa application process for the US proved to be arduous, and thousands found themselves caught in the backlog of Afghan Priority 2 (P-2) or Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) applications.
Though nearly 90,000 Afghans have been successfully resettled in the US, there are still many awaiting their turn. Human rights groups report that the most acute situation is faced by those in Pakistan, where hundreds of Afghans have been deported due to recent political instability and a crackdown on migrants.
4. Deportation Without Exceptions
The deportation process from Pakistan has proven to be severe and unforgiving. According to Haseeb Aafaq, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Immigrants Refugees Council, at least 530 Afghans have been deported from Pakistan this year alone. Disturbingly, this figure could be an underestimate, as some deportations occur without proper documentation.
Aafaq highlighted that the Pakistani authorities make no exceptions for those with pending US visa cases. “If you are Afghan, you must be deported if your visa is not valid, whether you are SIV or P-2 or sponsorship cases,” he stated. This has led to distressing outcomes, including the tragic suicides of two young Afghan men in Islamabad who were awaiting US P-2 visas.
5. US Commitment and Challenges Ahead
The US State Department maintains its commitment to assisting Afghan allies who worked alongside US forces. However, it acknowledges the limited processing capacity in Pakistan, which has hindered the resolution of pending cases. The State Department is actively working to expand its processing capacity in the region.
Nonetheless, it is essential for Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, including Pakistan, to keep their borders open and uphold their obligations to asylum seekers. This will ensure that those seeking refuge are not sent back to perilous circumstances.
6. A Glimmer of Hope Amidst Adversity
The stories of these Afghans awaiting US help are heart-wrenching. The uncertainty they face, the risks they endure, and the dreams they hold onto for a better future are a testament to the human spirit’s resilience. As the world watches, it is crucial for nations to step up their efforts and expedite the processing of visa applications, sparing these brave individuals from further hardships and uncertainty. Only then can we truly provide the sanctuary they so desperately seek.