Planes taking off from Kabul are not flying directly to the United States,

Up to 100,000 Afghan refugees have been scattered around the world in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, plunged into anxiety and fear and facing bureaucratic hurdles that could leave them stranded for years.

In the two weeks between the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan and the 31 August deadline for the US to complete the evacuation of both civilians and its soldiers, around 123,000 individuals were flown out. The US said its own aircraft had carried 79,000 people, including 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians.

Yet campaigners say that while this mad-dash scramble may have saved huge numbers of lives, it has cast tens of thousands of individuals into uncertain futures.

Up to 20 countries, ranging from Albania to Uganda, have agreed to house some Afghans on a temporary basis while their documentation and legal status is assessed. Those working with refugees say there are reports of some people having no idea of their destination when they board a plane, and that some are still unsure even when they land.

Recently, a former four-star US marine general, James “Hoss” Cartwright, urged the international humanitarian community to focus immediately on establishing places where refugees can live when they move from the US’s temporary staging locations. He said they may be there for a decade.

Boris Johnson visits Afghanistan crisis centre
“The hard thing is to get people focused on the longer-term refugee population. They’re not in a place where they can stay, they’re not in a place where they’re going to get settled,” he said at an event organised by the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.

The general, who served as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is a scholar at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, added: “They are going to have to be in place for five to 10 years. It’s going to take that long to sort out the refugee status.”

In the drama of the US’s final evacuation from Afghanistan, an act that ended a 20-year military occupation, much media attention has focused on the deaths of 13 US troops, and more than 100 Afghans, killed in a suicide bomb attack in the very final days. There has also been criticism of US president Joe Biden for leaving behind up to 200 American citizens and potentially tens of thousands of Afghans who had worked with the US or with other allied governments.
Indeed, already under pressure from Republicans, Mr Biden has often sought to emphasise the blocks he is putting in the way of ordinary Afghans coming to the US.

“Planes taking off from Kabul are not flying directly to the United States,” Mr Biden said last month. “At these sites … we are conducting thorough security screening for everyone who is not a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident.”
There has been much less focus on the very basic question of what will happen now to the 100,000 or more Afghans who were flown out, either to the US or to third countries.

Robyn Barnard, an immigration expert at Human Rights First, told The Independent there was concern about having people processed outside of the US.

“We’re urging the government to not leave people in these countries for visa processing, because some of the processing times can stretch into many years,” she said.

Rather, her organisation is urging Mr Biden allow refugees to enter the US on so-called “parole”, and to process their applications there.

“Many of the people in these countries are pretty vulnerable and shouldn’t be left to languish in other countries when they have support here, and there’s a large community of Afghan Americans to support them,” she said.

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