Hundreds of Afghan refugees in Pakistan gathered outside Pakistan’s National Press Club in Islamabad on Sunday to protest against the extreme delays in the approval of their U.S. visas. The refugees, who are waiting for their visa applications to be processed under the U.S. government’s Priority 1 and Priority 2 refugee programs, known as P1 and P2, are facing economic hardship and lack of access to health, education, and other services in Pakistan.
The P1 and P2 refugee programs were launched to fast track visas for Afghans who helped US forces, including journalists and activists, after the Taliban takeover. To be eligible for the program, the applicants must have worked for the U.S. government, a U.S.-based media organization or nongovernmental organization in Afghanistan, and must be referred by the U.S.-based employer.
However, Afghan refugees in Pakistan have been waiting for over one and a half years for U.S. officials to process their visa applications. This delay in approving visas and resettlement has left Afghan applicants in a highly vulnerable position. They are now protesting for the U.S. government to expedite their visa process and provide them with the necessary support to relocate to a third country.
Many of the Afghans present at the protest are facing problems in extending their visas to wait out the application process in Pakistan. Hesamuddin, an Afghan who is waiting for the processing of his P2 case, said that authorities should evacuate Afghan P1 and P2 applicants to a country where the necessary resettlement support centers (RSC) are open and able to conduct interviews. “They must evacuate us to another country where RSCs are functioning and can process there,” he said.
The Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces withdrew. Since then, many Afghans working with NATO forces have sought to leave the country, fearing persecution from the Taliban despite “no action will be taken against them” confirmation from Taliban.
The situation is dire for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and the U.S. government must take immediate action to help these vulnerable people. The protestors are urging the U.S. to expedite their visa applications and provide them with the necessary support to relocate to a third country.
The delays in processing the visa applications have left Afghan applicants in a precarious position. They are unable to work legally and are facing economic hardship as they wait for their visas to be approved. In addition, they are unable to access healthcare, education, and other essential services in Pakistan.
The U.S. government must address the concerns of these vulnerable Afghans and provide them with the necessary support to relocate to a third country. The protestors are calling on the U.S. to expedite their visa applications and provide them with the necessary support to resettle in a safe and secure location.