U.S. State Department: We Can’t Process Special Immigrant Visas Right Now

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Taliban forces patrol in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

My reader who’s trying to get his company’s former employees out of Afghanistan learned that the U.S. State Department has temporarily stopped processing Special Immigrant Visas for the government’s Afghan allies. (For background on this reader and his efforts, see herehereherehereherehere, here and here.)

My reader’s latest automated e-mail reply from the State Department arrived Thursday:

 You are receiving this message in reply to the email you sent to the AfghanistanACS@state.gov email address. Please review the information below. You will not receive a response if the answer to your question is covered in this message.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on August 31, 2021. While the U.S. government has withdrawn its personnel from Kabul, we will continue to assist U.S. citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar.

While we are currently unable to provide consular services for immigrant visas, including Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), in Afghanistan, we are developing processing alternatives so that we can continue to deliver this important service for the people of Afghanistan.

The message gives no sense of when or how the State Department will be able to provide consular service for immigrant visas and SIVs.

The message also urges Afghans in danger to see if the United Nations can help them:

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Asylum/Humanitarian Assistance:  If you have concerns about your safety, you may contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection office, which can be reached via their Protection Hotline numbers or email address:  0790691746 and 0704996168 (available on all working days), and afgkaprt@unhcr.org.  UNHCR’s website provides information on asylum procedures abroad: https://help.unhcr.org/.

Ironically, the same day the message arrived, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan,  Deborah Lyons, warned that her organization was having difficulty ensuring the safety of its own staff:  “We are… increasingly worried by the growing number of incidents of harassment and intimidation against our national staff. We will continue to do everything possible to support our staff and keep them from harm’s way. The UN cannot conduct its work—work that is so essential to the Afghan people—if its personnel are subjected to intimidation, fear for their lives, and cannot move freely.” Lyons also decried “credible allegations of reprisal killings of [Afghan National Security Forces] personnel,” the Taliban breaking their promises to respect the rights of women, and “increasing violence used against Afghans who are protesting Taliban rule.”

If the United Nations cannot protect its own Afghan staffers, why would anyone expect them to be able to protect refugees?

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