- An official tasked with resettling refugees wants the Biden administration to make the process easier for Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
- Erol Kekic told Insider his agency, Church World Service, expects to relocate 10,000 Special Immigrant Visa holders.
- So far this year, the US government has accepted fewer than 500 Afghan refugees.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As civilians look to flee Afghanistan while the Taliban continues its takeover of the country, resettlement agencies in the US are preparing for an influx of refugees.
As Insider’s Charles Davis reported, the US government has accepted fewer than 500 Afghan refugees so far this year, despite warnings that a Taliban takeover was both imminent and a threat to vulnerable Afghans, particularly women.
One official tasked with resettling Afghans in the US told Insider the Biden administration needs to make it easier for them to settle in the country.
“I think we encourage, if not implore, the Biden administration to consider, and very seriously consider, removing obstacles to refugee processing that currently exist so that we can speed up the process of getting people out of harm’s way,” Erol Kekic, senior vice president of the immigration and refugee program at Church World Service, told Insider.
The US only accepts Afghan refugees that have already fled the country, meaning that those looking to flee now will have to go to a third country before they can apply for resettlement in the US.
The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Evacuation flights have since resumed after flights out of the Afghan capital of Kabul were grounded Monday and Tuesday, when chaotic videos showed people at the airport running onto the tarmac to try and board planes as the Taliban began closing in. General Hank Taylor told reporters that the US expects to transport around 5,000 to 9,000 people out of the country per day.
According to a report from Fox News, the Department of Defense is expecting to resettle up to 30,000 Afghan refugees who applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). SIVs are given to people who work for, or aided, the US government overseas, including interpreters and translators.
Kekic told Insider his organization expects to aid around 10,000 SIV recipients from Afghanistan. But he said the number is such a “distant target” that it’s hard to predict how many people the agency ultimately will help relocate.
He added that he needs more clarity from the US government about the profile of SIV holders who will be coming to the country, as well as the size of families that his organization will have to aid. But Kekic said it’s hard for anyone to provide answers, since the situation on the ground in Afghanistan remains unpredictable.
“I think the information is probably not readily available to anyone at this moment,” Kekic said. “I live under no illusion that somebody is going to call me to tell me what the next move is.”