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Qatar to suspend evacuation flights for U.S.-bound Afghan refugees while it hosts soccer World Cup

Qatari officers have mentioned they plan to droop evacuation flights for Afghan refugees hoping to resettle within the U.S. whereas the nation hosts soccer’s World Cup subsequent month, in keeping with refugee advocates, congressional aides and a supply acquainted with the Qatari authorities’s plans.

The transfer would add to an already large backlog of tens of 1000’s of Afghans who labored for the U.S. army and who are actually attempting to go away the nation after the hard-line Islamist Taliban seized again energy final 12 months.

The reported plan comes as Qatar is already underneath scrutiny over its remedy of migrant staff and its insurance policies on LGBTQ and girls’s rights within the run-up to the World Cup, the biggest scale worldwide occasion ever held within the tiny Gulf nation.

Qatar, in cooperation with the U.S. authorities, oversees weekly flights from Kabul to the Qatari capital, Doha, for Afghans making use of to resettle within the U.S. After arriving at a U.S. army base outdoors Doha, the Afghans have their paperwork reviewed by U.S. authorities, and most proceed on to the U.S. There are a number of thousand Afghans presently housed on the base.

However with the opening ceremony and first World Cup recreation set for Nov. 20, the federal government has determined to quickly halt the flights from Kabul and has already suspended bookings for flights till January, the sources mentioned. 

Information of the flight cancellations has began to unfold on-line in Afghanistan, mentioned an Afghan father who labored for the U.S. and remains to be ready to go away Afghanistan.

“All doorways are closed. Me and my household are hopeless,” mentioned the father, who spoke on situation of anonymity to guard his household’s security.

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Afghan refugees attempting to ebook flights to Doha have obtained emails saying it’s not potential to order a seat till January, Afghans and advocacy teams mentioned. Flights are persevering with to function in the meanwhile however refugee organizations are fearful the planes will quickly cease flying out of Kabul.

Requested about Qatar’s plans and whether or not the U.S. had appealed to Doha to proceed with the flights, a State Division spokesperson mentioned: “We stay dedicated to supporting Afghan relocation to america and enormously recognize Qatar’s partnership.”

Based on refugee advocates and congressional aides, there are roughly 128,000 Afghans who’ve utilized for particular immigrant visas (SIV), a program arrange for Afghans who labored as interpreters, drivers or different jobs for the U.S. authorities over the previous twenty years. That quantity has steadily elevated since President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 after a 20-year presence.

The Biden administration has not launched up-to-date numbers on what number of Afghans are within the pipeline for particular immigrant visas. A State Division spokesperson mentioned the U.S. has issued greater than 18,000 particular immigrant visas to Afghan candidates and their relations from January 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022.

Human rights organizations and refugee advocacy teams say the Taliban have performed a marketing campaign of persecution, together with beatings and homicide towards Afghans who labored for america, promoted human rights or served within the former Afghan authorities.

The particular immigrant visa program for Afghans has been stricken by lengthy delays, and on the present charge, it might take over 18 years to efficiently course of the entire pending purposes, in keeping with the Affiliation of Wartime Allies, a nonprofit that helps Afghans eligible for this system.

The Biden administration says it has devoted extra workers to this system and has diminished the processing time for SIV purposes. “The Biden administration continues to show its dedication to the courageous Afghans who stood side-by-side with america over the previous twenty years,” the State Division spokesperson mentioned.

Qatar’s embassy in Washington didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has complained that his nation, the primary Arab state to host the World Cup, has confronted an “unprecedented marketing campaign” of criticism over its preparations for the match and rejected allegations of exploitation of migrant staff who helped assemble stadiums and different buildings. 

Abigail Williams contributed.

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