President Biden Must Act Immediately to Protect Vulnerable Afghans | LIRS

President Biden Must Act Immediately to Protect Vulnerable Afghans

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2021
Contact: Timothy Young | tyoung@lirs.org | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – The Biden administration has relocated approximately 7,000 people from Kabul to various destinations, including nearly 1,800 American citizens or legal permanent residents as of August 19. Reports from the ground indicate a continuation of volatile conditions, including Taliban checkpoints limiting access to the airport in violation of international law, insufficient crowd control contributing to multiple deaths, and erroneous denials of entry to the airport for legal permanent residents.

Despite an increased presence of military personnel and consular officials at the airport in Kabul, evacuations have not reached the estimated capacity of 5,000 to 9,000 people per day as outlined by Pentagon officials. To date, the Biden administration has failed to publicly communicate destinations for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) applicants, Priority 1 (P-1) refugees, and Priority 2 (P-2) refugees, nor has it specified how it will assure and uphold humane conditions and legal rights of those evacuated.

The following is a statement by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a national refugee resettlement agency assisting in the relocation and resettlement of Afghan allies and refugees:

“The administration’s immediate priority must be a drastic increase in evacuation flights, whether they are military or commercial. There is no excuse for even a single empty seat when tens of thousands of lives are on the line. At the same time, it must leverage every possible means to secure safe passage for all those who wish to flee to reach the airport. At this juncture, one misstep in the streets of Kabul could be a literal death sentence.

“We cannot in good conscience tie a life-or-death humanitarian operation to the current August 31 timeline unless we act more swiftly. Our government made a commitment; abandonment is not an option. We must continue this lifesaving work until the mission is fulfilled. If political will matches military might, the U.S. can still implement the boldest evacuation in modern history. But that window of opportunity is just inches away from closing.

“Make no mistake – the administration’s failure to heed the call of veterans and advocates months ago has put our nation in this unconscionable position. It cannot let innocent Afghans die by bureaucracy. The American people have resoundingly declared that they will not stand for the mass murder of our Afghan allies. All eyes are on President Biden as he determines the enduring legacy of our nation as one that keeps its sacred word, or abandons its friends in their darkest hour.”

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