One year anniversary of the fall of Kabul
It’s been a year today since Afghanistan’s capital city fell into the hands of the Taliban. In the last year, the U.S. has welcomed about 76,000 Afghan evacuees and tens of thousands more have found homes in other countries across the world. Approximately 6,500 evacuees remain in the United Arab Emirates awaiting their final resettlement.
The vast majority of evacuees brought to the U.S. last year came under a temporary protection called humanitarian parole, which allows quick approval for entry but does not provide immigration status. Last week, Congress announced the introduction of a bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act in both houses, which would provide a pathway for those who arrived under humanitarian parole to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. The passage of this bill would be a significant step toward providing stability for those who have already arrived but are living in limbo, and would also open up more avenues for some of those left behind.
Since Afghan evacuees did not arrive under the traditional U.S Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), their first year in the U.S. has been challenging as many have faced tight housing markets, high living expenses, and less structural support than they would have under USRAP. Communities across the country have stepped up to attempt to fill these gaps, creating sponsor circles or providing support through refugee resettlement agencies.
Meanwhile thousands in Afghanistan remain in danger
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan are still waiting for safe passage away from the threat of the Taliban. Of those who have applied for humanitarian parole after the evacuation, 93% of adjudicated applications have been denied as of June 2022. Most of those applications are still awaiting review, and about 70% of the applicants remain in danger within Afghanistan. As of July 28th, only 369 of the 48,900 humanitarian parole applications filed since the military withdrawal have been approved. NBC News reported last week that a senior administration official has confirmed that more than 70,000 Afghans who applied for the special immigrant visa (SIV) before Sept 2021 are still in Afghanistan. “We can’t claim mission accomplished,” says Jennifer Quigley of Human Rights First in the New York Times, “There are still too many vulnerable people abroad.”
Under Taliban rule, women’s rights have been decimated: their movements and clothing have been deeply restricted, high school girls have been banned from attending high school, child marriages are on the rise, and many women had to flee the country due to their work, art, or activism. An article published in TIME last week tells the powerful stories of Afghan women who have been forced to flee: two teachers, a psychologist, two Afghan Air Force pilots, an artist, an activist, and a data analyst who have all found homes across the world. In the words of Batool Haidari, a psychologist from Afghanistan who is now making her home in Rome, “We are all warriors. Not because we are at war, but because we are fighting to survive. Even now, after leaving Afghanistan under such difficult conditions, we are still fighting to live our lives.”