State Department Expands Program to Resettle Afghan Refugees in the U.S.

Afghan refugees enter Afghan territory after leaving Iran at the Islam Qala border crossin
Hoshang Hashimi/AP Photo

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced a new program to help resettle Afghan refugees in the United States as part of President Joe Biden’s plans to end the U.S. military’s involvement in the Afghanistan War.

The new program aims to help Afghans who worked for American media companies, non-profits, or contractors and who do not qualify for settlement in the U.S. via the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who worked as interpreters directly for the U.S. government during the war.

“The State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States but who do not qualify for Special Immigrant Visas,” Blinken announced at a State Department press briefing.

“We’ve created a Priority-2, or P-2, designation, granting access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for many of these Afghans and their family members,” he said.

Applicants for the P-2 program need to be outside of Afghanistan in order to apply, according to officials.

The P-2 program is in addition to Operation Allies Refugee, which the Biden administration launched to evacuate Afghans who have applied for and are in the process of obtaining an American visa under the SIV program.

The administration has so far brought over 400 individuals, which includes SIV applicants and their families, to Fort Lee in Virginia. Blinken said the flights “will continue.”

“We’re now focused on relocating a group of more than 1,000 applicants and their families who have nearly completed processing – around 4,000 people in total,” he told reporters.

He said the administration is pursuing third-country agreements so that eligible SIV applicants and their families can be quickly relocated to wait safely in another country as their applications are processed.

Blinken said over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 SIVs to eligible Afghans who have helped the U.S. and to their families.

“We have a special responsibility to these individuals. They stood with us. We will stand with them,” he said. “We have a long history in the United States of welcoming refugees into our country.”

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price said the new P-2 program applies to Afghans who worked as employees of contractors, locally employed staff, interpreters, and translators for the U.S. government.

He said it also applies to Afghans who worked for U.S. government-funded programs or projects in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement, and Afghans who worked for U.S.-based media organizations or non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In addition to the P-2 and SIV programs, Price said the P-1 program remains available for broader groups of Afghan nationals.

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