US government seeking volunteers from immigration agency to process Afghan refugees

By on 19/08/2021 | Updated on 19/08/2021
With the return of the Taliban, thousands are trying to escape the new regime – including many women who face a return to mandatory burkha-wearing. Picture by Pixnio

Officials from the US immigration agency are being asked to volunteer to support the relocation of Afghan refugees, after the Taliban’s dramatic return to power.

The US government aims to evacuate Afghans who assisted the US mission in the country along with their families, giving them Special Immigrant Visas under Operation Allies Refuge.

An internal email sent by US Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS), seen by Global Government Forum, says that volunteers are being sought from any position across the agency to support temporary on-site immigration processing and adjudications at Fort Lee, a US Army base in Petersburg, Virginia, where CIS has set up a temporary field office.

Other locations may also be used once departmental agencies have determined the total number of processing sites needed at various US military bases, it adds. The volunteers will be working with the Department of Defense, Department of State and nongovernmental organisations, as well as other Department of Homeland Security and other USCIS personnel, the email states.

Applications for the postings close tomorrow, and employees could be deployed as early as this week. Those wanting to take up the posts must have their supervisor’s permission, be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and be willing to work 10-12 hours a day, including being on-call, the email adds.

They might be on site for two weeks or more at a time, and need to be “highly flexible and resilient in a rapidly changing work environment”, it says. The postings will last up to 60 days, and employees will maintain their existing title and grade.

Bit late now

The Biden administration pledged in July to evacuate Afghans who worked with the US government during their mission in the country, plus their families. But since July only 2,000 have been flown to the US, according to a report from Reuters.

A US official told the news agency that Biden’s ambition to evacuate 22,000 Afghans is “a nice goal to have, but realistically it’s going to be a challenge”.

Some 6,000 US troops have been deployed to support the evacuations, though only 4,000 have arrived so far, Reuters said. Once full capacity is reached, the ambition is to fly out 5,000 to 9,000 refugees per day.

But the refugees will first have to get to Kabul and then to the airport through a series of Taliban checkpoints, officials said. 

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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