New York, NY, February 16, 2022 — Six months after the Taliban entered Kabul and the first evacuation flights of Afghan allies began, all but two of the nine US government “Safe Haven” facilities processing evacuated Afghan allies close their doors - winding down of Phase 1 of the mass emergency evacuation from Afghanistan known as “Operation Allies Welcome."
The scale of the Afghan evacuation was unprecedented in recent decades, with over 74,000 Afghans evacuated to the United States to be resettled by U.S. resettlement organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC). According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the evacuation was the largest since the Vietnam War.
After four years of the dismantling of the US Refugee Admissions Program, IRC and other NGOs had the incredible task of not only scaling up to meet a national refugee resettlement goal of 125,000 - more than 8 times greater than last year’s goal of 15,000 set by the Trump Administration- but also resettling over 70,000 Afghan allies across the country in a matter of weeks. Since the evacuation, the IRC alone has begun resettling over 10,000 Afghans around the country.
The challenges are many: the national housing shortage limits housing options for all Americans, including refugees and Afghan Humanitarian Parolees. COVID-19 has also brought about many delays in accessing benefits and services, especially healthcare.
IRC’s emergency Afghan resettlement operation at a glance:
- A national resettlement goal 8 times higher than last year- from 15,000 refugees per year under the previous administration to 125,000 per year under the Biden Administration- not inclusive of 70,000 Afghan allies
- Over 10,000 Afghan refugees served since August of 2021 by IRC alone - on top of 12,000 other refugees we are set to resettle this year - compared to 4,000 total refugees and SIVs the IRC processed in total the year before
- Deployed over 1,000 staff and volunteers to support reception and processing at 9 “Safe Havens” set up at US government facilities to receive Afghan parolees.
- Interpreters made available in Urdu, Dari and Pashto
- Over 10,000 medical visits and COVID-19 vaccinations
- Over 10,000 hotel stays, welcome baskets and welcome meals from local Afghan restaurants
- 2000 new volunteers to support the resettlement effort, on top of thousands of existing volunteers
- 180,000 in-kind donations to disburse from the private sector in addition to thousands of SIM cards, hygiene and baby supplies donated by local communities
While the emergency evacuation of Afghan allies has come to a close - with refugees now being processed via the US Refugee Admissions Program and flown out of the country on a case-by-case basis - the work of U.S. resettlement agencies like the IRC is just beginning. Now is the time to refocus attention on the resettlement and long-term integration needs of Afghans in local US communities.
Hans Van de Weerd, Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum and Integration at the International Rescue Committee, said: “Refugees have shown themselves to be an asset for America- and the spirit of refuge and welcome is essential to the idea of this country. Operation Allies Welcome saw tremendous support from political leaders - including statements of support from 37 US governors on a bipartisan basis - veteran’s groups and local US communities. Across American neighborhoods today, there is historic, bipartisan and unprecedented support for welcoming these new American neighbors.
“What’s needed to begin locking in the success of Operation Allies Welcome is to regularize the status of these Afghans. President Biden must work with Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, allowing our Afghan allies - processed as humanitarian parolees to evacuate them as safely and quickly as possible - to access work authorization, healthcare and a path to permanent residency. Considering how bipartisan this effort has been thus far, and that there is no constituency for sending Afghans back to harm's way, this should be not only possible but considered of the utmost and most urgent importance.”
The IRC helps refugees restart their lives in over 20 cities across the United States by providing essential services, adult and youth education, immigration legal assistance, and support to find housing, employment and health care. Community partners and supporters can help welcome Afghans through volunteering, donating, or other ways to support. Learn more about how you can get involved.