Exclusive-US will launch a new Afghan refugee program

© Reuters. File photo: The U.S. flag is reflected on the window of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Authors: Ted Hesson, Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters)-A government official and two sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday that the administration of US President Joe Biden will launch a new plan to resettle certain Afghans as refugees. U.S.

Three sources, who asked not to be named, said that the US State Department is expected to announce the establishment of the so-called second priority refugee program on Monday.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan came at the time of the surge in fighting in Afghanistan before the United States officially completed its withdrawal at the end of this month, and the Taliban are pushing for the occupation of major provincial capitals.

Biden is facing pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups to help Afghans who are at risk of retaliation by the Taliban because of their ties to the United States during the 20-year American war.

The government official said that the new refugee program will cover Afghans working for U.S.-funded projects as well as U.S. non-governmental organizations and media organizations.

These Afghans are not eligible for the Special Immigrant Visa (NYSE:) (SIV) program, which covers interpreters and other people working for the US government and their families.

Last week, approximately 200 SIV applicants and their families flew to the United States at the beginning of an evacuation operation known as “Allied Refuge,” which may include as many as 50,000 people or more.

They were taken to a military base in Virginia, completed the final formalities, and then resettled across the country.

The government official stated that the new plan for Afghans will be different from the Prority Two refugee plan for Iraqis, which has been suspended indefinitely while US officials are conducting a comprehensive fraud investigation.

The official added that the new Afghanistan plan will require applicants to be recommended by U.S. agencies, senior U.S. officials, non-governmental organizations or the media.

The official said that the referral requirement is the main difference between the new Afghanistan plan and the Iraq plan. The Iraq plan allows Iraqis to apply directly without a referral.

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