US to Expand Resettlement Program for Afghan Refugees, State Department Says
© AP Photo / Boris GrdanoskiRefugees who say they come from Afghanistan, rest at the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016
© AP Photo / Boris Grdanoski
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States will expand the resettlement program for the Afghans who aided the US troops amid growing threat from the radical Taliban* movement and expects to admit thousands of people from the conflict-torn country, the US State Department said Monday.
"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. This designation expands the opportunity to permanently resettle in the United States to many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members," the statement said, adding that the program will now cover those who were previously not eligible for a special immigrant visa due to various reasons.
The State Department stressed that the access to the P-2 program is a "critical mechanism to provide protection" for the individuals who may be at risk of persecution in Afghanistan due to their US affiliation. The program will cover locally-employed staff, interpreters, people who worked for US government-funded projects or received grants, and employees of US media organizations and NGOs.
The United States is widening eligibility for priority refugee admission for thousands more Afghans who worked with US forces but are not eligible for the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), the US State Department said.
"Today, the Department of State is announcing a Priority 2 (P-2) designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) access for certain Afghan nationals and their eligible family members," the statement said.
This designation allows the resettlement "many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members", according to the state department.
This program is designed for Afghans who worked with US and NATO institutions not as interpreters and aides, as is provided for in SIV, the statement explained.
Last week, the first group of nearly 250 Afghans who worked for the US military and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan arrived in the US.
Afghanistan has witnessed a rise in violence in recent weeks as the Taliban stepped up its offensive after international troops began withdrawing from the country in May. The troop pullout, scheduled to be completed by September, was one of the points of the agreement that the radical group and the United States reached in Doha in February 2020.
Over the recent months, local interpreters and other staff began facing increasing threats from the Taliban for helping foreign forces throughout the last twenty years of the war in Afghanistan. Washington vowed to ensure their safety, and earlier in July, US President Joe Biden announced relocation flights from Afghanistan for interpreters and other allies.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and other countries.