August 03, 2021
 
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US Expands Afghan Refugee Program      08/02 06:03

   The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts to evacuate at-risk 
Afghan citizens from Afghanistan as Taliban violence increases ahead there of 
the U.S. military pullout at the end of the month.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts 
to evacuate at-risk Afghan citizens from Afghanistan as Taliban violence 
increases ahead there of the U.S. military pullout at the end of the month.

   The State Department said it is widening the scope of Afghans eligible for 
refugee status in United States to include current and former employees of 
U.S.-based news organizations, U.S.-based aid and development agencies and 
other relief groups that receive U.S. funding. Current and former employees of 
the U.S. government and the NATO military operation who don't meet the criteria 
for a dedicated program for such workers are also covered.

   The State Department said the move will mean that "many thousands" of 
Afghans and their immediate families will now have the opportunity to be 
permanently resettled in the U.S. as refugees. It did not offer a more specific 
number of those who might be eligible for the program.

   "The U.S. objective remains a peaceful, secure Afghanistan," it said in a 
statement. "However, in light of increased levels of Taliban violence, the U.S. 
government is working to provide certain Afghans, including those who worked 
with the United States, the opportunity for refugee resettlement to the United 
States."

   The creation of a "Priority 2" category for Afghans within the U.S. Refugee 
Admissions Program is intended for Afghans and their immediate families who 
"may be at risk due to their U.S. affiliation" but aren't able to get a Special 
Immigrant Visa because they did not work directly for the U.S. government or 
didn't hold their government jobs long enough.

   To qualify for the Priority 2 category, Afghans must be nominated by a U.S. 
government agency or by the most senior civilian U.S. citizen employee of a 
U.S-based media outlet or nongovernmental organization.

   The first group of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants -- most of whom 
served as translators or did other work for U.S. troops or diplomats -- who 
have cleared security vetting arrived in the U.S. on Friday. That group of 221 
people are among 2,500 who will be brought to the U.S. in the coming days.

   Another 4,000 SIV applicants, plus their families, who have not yet cleared 
the security screening are expected to be relocated to third countries ahead of 
the completion of the U.S. withdrawal. Roughly 20,000 Afghans have expressed 
interest in the program.

 
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