US restricts refugee admissions to focus on resettlement of Afghan evacuees

The US government is curtailing admissions of refugees to focus on the massive efforts to treat and resettle tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees, the State Department said Monday.

Until January 11, the United States will stop booking travel for refugees who are not eligible for certain exemptions. Refugees who need to be reunited with family in the United States, who are ready to travel, who have “emergencies,” or whose medical and security examinations soon expire will continue to be resettled, the State Department said.

Boundaries of refugee admissions were requested by local non-profit organizations resettling refugees working with the government to help immigrants fleeing violence and war settle in American communities, two people familiar with the matter said. to CBS News.

Since late summer, resettlement groups have joined forces to help the more than 73,000 Afghan evacuees who the United States has relocated to the United States after the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan.

The effort, called Operation Allies Welcome, has strained resources for the nine national resettlement groups and their local affiliates, many of which closed offices and reduced their staff levels during the Trump administration, dramatically reducing refugee admissions.

“This temporary prioritization of new reservations will enable resettlement agencies and community partners to provide necessary services to the Afghans who will leave the United States’ safe havens in the coming weeks and months, as well as to receive refugees already booked for travel in November and December.” This is stated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

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About 46,000 Afghan evacuees currently live in eight military installations across the U.S. mainland that have served as temporary housing while officials prepare to relocate the newcomers to their respective destinations in America, the latest government figures show.

So far, 25,000 evacuees have left the military sites, including 19,000 Afghans who have been resettled by non-profit resettlement groups, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“This temporary approach will help accelerate the resettlement of Afghans from safe havens to their new communities,” said the foreign ministry, which used the government’s name for the military sites.

Another 2,600 people evacuated from Afghanistan are waiting for flights to the United States at military bases in the Middle East and Europe, according to DHS data.

Resettlement groups, many of which are faith-based, help refugees secure affordable housing, jobs and public benefits designed to facilitate their integration into American society.

The restrictions on refugee admissions, albeit temporary, will further complicate the U.S. government’s efforts to meet President Biden’s ambitious goal of resettling up to 125,000 refugees by fiscal year 2022, which began last month.

In October, the United States admitted 401 refugees, a 89% drop from September, when nearly 3,800 refugees arrived in the country, government data shows.

The hospitalization numbers do not include the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees who have been brought to the United States since the summer because they entered the country during a humanitarian process known as parole – not through the traditional refugee program.

The temporary refugee admission restrictions will not apply to immigrants who have assisted U.S. military forces and have special immigrant visas, the State Department noted.

The Biden administration has struggled to rebuild the U.S. refugee program, which was crippled by numerous Trump-era restrictions and the coronavirus pandemic.

In the fiscal year 2021, which included the first eight full months of Mr. Biden’s presidency, the United States resettled 11,411 refugees, a low ever.


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