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Thousands of Afghans wait in the UAE for US immigration approval

Thousands of displaced Afghan nationals await months for the processing of their applications for resettlement in the United States in makeshift refugee housing on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

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    Displaced Afghan refugees in the United Arab Emirates

    When the Taliban quickly took over Afghanistan, many Afghans were evacuated to either the United States or to neighboring countries where they could take safe haven while they wait for entry approval into the United States. However, due to long processing times, vetting, and backlogs, many Afghan refugees are still awaiting approval from the United States for resettlement.

    One such place where displaced Afghans are taking refuge is in the United Arab Emirates. In an agreement with the Emirati government, many Afghan evacuees have been living at the Emirate Humanitarian City, an apartment complex on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi that was converted into a makeshift refugee housing facility. It is estimated that they are an estimated 6,500 Afghan refugees who await the processing of their immigration cases such as applications for humanitarian parole and EB-4 Visas (Special Immigrant Visas).

    Afghan city street before Taliban takeover

    Afghan resettlement in the United States

    It is estimated that there were over 70,000 Afghans who were directly evacuated by the United States in their swift exit from Afghanistan. Many were temporarily placed in various U.S. refugee camps in third countries such as Humanitarian City in the U.A.E. and a camp in Kosovo.

    Individuals who were evacuated from the U.A.E. camp before August 31st, 2021 benefited from guaranteed permission to enter the United States if they could pass certain medical and security checks. However, those individuals who arrived in Humanitarian City after August 31st, 2021, have been forced to prove their qualifications for U.S. resettlement. This includes a slower and more thorough case-by-case immigration review by U.S. officials that can take up to 1 year to process.

    The U.S. State Department is continuing to process immigration applications by Afghan nationals. It is estimated that a total of 17,000 evacuees have passed through Humanitarian City into the United States. However, not all evacuees who remain in the Humanitarian City will be eligible for U.S. settlement and thus will need to apply for resettlement in another country.

    Uncertain future for displaced Afghans

    Those who still await their immigration case to be processed by the U.S. face an uncertain future as they may be running out of time. The U.A.E. has only allowed offering safe haven to Afghan refugees on a temporary basis and would possibly need renegotiation from the United States to continue housing and supporting Afghan refugees who await processing.

    To complicate the issue further, the money needed to support and house evacuees in camps like this one will run out of congressional funding at the end of September. If not renewed for more funding by Congress, individuals at these camps could face an uncertain future as the camps may be forced to shut down.

    helicopter in Afghanistan

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