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Taliban Takeover: The US’s Moral Obligation to Provide Refuge

Immigration Policy Brief # 128 | By: Kathryn Baron | August 24, 2021

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Photo taken from: Taiwan News

Policy Summary

As the Taliban rapidly took over Afghanistan amidst US withdrawal, the Biden Administration has vowed to help Afghans, targeting those who supported American military and diplomatic efforts, obtain Special Immigration Visas (SIVs). Approximately 550,000 Afghans are internally displaced and 18.4 million currently require humanitarian assistance in some capacity – women and children are among the majority of individuals immediately effected. Throughout the 20-year US involvement in Afghanistan, the US has allegedly resettled over 75,000 Afghans and their families through the SIV program and plan to continue. 

Since August 14, the US has evacuated around 25,000 individuals and will likely need to assist in the evacuation of around 60,000 more. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, authorized Fort Bliss (TX) and Fort McCoy (WI) to provide temporary housing and support for up to 22,000 SIV applicants and their families. The SIV program is mainly for interpretors and individuals who directly assisted the US military, but will soon expand to those who worked for US government-funded programs, nonprofits, and media.  

Immigration experts estimate nearly 100,000 individuals may be eligible for resettlement. For Afghans specifically, the existing SIV program is already backlogged up to 18,000 applicants and since applications are examined on an individual basis, the number could really be closer to 80,000 if immediate family members are factored in. Around the world, 13 countries,in additeion to the U.S., have pledged to assist Afghans in their plight: Albania, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Uganda.

Policy Analysis

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), refugees may seek asylum in foreign territories if they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Many immigration advocates believe the US has a moral obligation to the Afghan people and have theoretically had two decades to plan for this. 

Some push for the US to establish an open-door Afghan refugee policy and that the military withdrawal from Afghanistan is not the extent of the US’s role. In addition, advocates have urged the US and its NATO allies to charter flights out of Kabul to the US and NATO members states. The president of Refugees International wrote a letter to the Biden Administration suggesting the US be willing and prepare for potentially resettling up to 200,000 Afghan refugees.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

  • National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • Miles 4 Migrants: A charity that accepts frequent flyer mile donations to help individuals impacted by war, persecution, and/or disaster by providing flights for refugees, asylum-seekers, and their immediate family members who have legal approval for travel but cannot afford it. 
  • Protect Afghan Women: A project affiliated by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security to focus on the role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, addressing global threats, and seeking to ensure Afghan women are free from persecution.
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