Politics

The Biden Administration Is Keeping Thousands of Afghan refugees in Limbo Abroad

Thousands of Afghans who fled their homes two years ago are stuck at processing sites in the Middle East and the Balkans that are “coordinated, facilitated, or under the control of the U.S. government” — yet the Biden administration refuses to disclose basic information about their status, according to human rights advocates who sued the administration last month.

As the U.S. and its allies airlifted people out of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, they helped set up what were supposed to be temporary processing sites in third countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kosovo. Two years later, thousands of Afghans are in effective detention at those sites, which are largely closed off to visitors, according to human rights lawyers, amid deteriorating conditions and with no updates about their refugee, humanitarian parole, or other pending applications for entry to the U.S.

“It’s extremely concerning that people have just been waiting in limbo for two years now, and it is extremely difficult to receive further information, because there is a denial of access to visitors,” Sadaf Doost, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, or CCR, told The Intercept. “That creates a situation where much of the information that we’re relying on depends on those who are able to provide a sneak peek of what’s going on in the camps.”

CCR and Muslim Advocates, another legal nonprofit, sued the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security on August 30 over the agencies’ failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act laws. Earlier this year, the groups had filed public records requests with each agency seeking to establish the exact number of Afghans awaiting resettlement to the U.S., as well as the terms of their confinement and the exact role played by the U.S. government in running the sites where they are being held. According to the lawsuit, the Departments of State and Homeland Security did not respond to the records requests at all. The Department of Defense, meanwhile, agreed to release some of the records but has so far failed to do so.

The lawsuit also raises humanitarian and human rights concerns at three of the processing sites: Camp Liya, in Kosovo, which is inside a U.S. Army base; Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar, which is on a former U.S. Army base; and Humanitarian City, in the UAE, which U.S. officials say is “solely” controlled by the Emirati government, though State Department representatives reportedly visit the camp twice a week.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on pending litigation, while a spokesperson for the State Department did not answer questions about the lawsuit or the status of Afghans awaiting resettlement at processing sites abroad. The Pentagon did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

“There’s just no information as to how much longer these Afghan civilians have to wait.”

Continue reading on The Intercept.

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