FORT BLISS, TEXAS – The Biden administration on Friday supplied the primary public look inside a U.S. navy base the place Afghans airlifted out of Afghanistan are being screened, amid questions on how the federal government is caring for the refugees and vetting them.
“Each Afghan who’s right here with us has endured a harrowing journey and they’re now confronted with the very actual challenges of acclimating with life in america,” Liz Gracon, a senior State Division official, advised reporters.
The three-hour tour at Fort Bliss Military base in El Paso, Texas, was the primary time the media has been granted broad entry to one of many eight U.S. navy installations housing Afghans.
Besides, reporters, together with these with The Related Press, weren’t allowed to speak with any evacuees or spend various minutes in areas the place they had been gathered, with navy officers citing “privateness issues.”
Almost 10,000 Afghan evacuees are staying on the base whereas they bear medical and safety checks earlier than being resettled in america. The operation was described by officers on the Division of Homeland Safety and Division of State as a “historic” and “unprecedented” effort to facilitate the relocation of an enormous variety of refugees in lower than a month’s time.
On Friday, Afghan kids with soccer balls and basketballs performed exterior massive white tents. Households walked down a mud driveway with stacks of plastic meals containers piled below their chins and Coca-Cola cans below their arms. One younger woman, nonetheless carrying soiled clothes, cried in the midst of the highway after her meals spilled and troopers tried to assist her. Contained in the containers, which refugees had spent round quarter-hour in line for within the blistering solar, had been conventional Afghan meals of basmati rice and hearty stew.
The U.S. authorities spent two weeks constructing what it calls a village to accommodate the Afghans on the bottom. It’s a sprawling space with scores of air-conditioned tents used as dormitories and eating halls on scrubby dust tons, a panorama that in some methods resembled components of the homeland they fled.
Below this system referred to as “Operation Allies Welcome,” some 50,000 Afghans are anticipated to be admitted to america, together with translators, drivers and others who helped the U.S. navy in the course of the 20-year struggle and who feared reprisals by the Taliban after they rapidly seized energy final month.
Almost 130,000 had been airlifted out of Afghanistan in one of many largest mass evacuations in U.S. historical past. A lot of these persons are nonetheless in transit, present process safety vetting and screening in different nations, together with Germany, Spain, Kuwait and Qatar.
Members of Congress have questioned whether or not the screening is thorough sufficient.
Most of the Afghans who labored for the U.S. authorities have undergone years of vetting already earlier than they had been employed, after which once more to use for a particular immigrant visa for U.S. allies.
After they’re launched from the bottom, they are going to be aided by resettlement businesses answerable for putting the refugees. The businesses give precedence to locations the place the refugees both have household already in america or there are Afghan immigrant communities with the sources to assist them begin a brand new life in a overseas land. These with American citizenship or inexperienced playing cards are capable of depart as soon as arriving on the base, based on a State Division consultant.
If different evacuees — whose launch depends on finishing well being protocols mandated by the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention — select to depart previous to the total resettlement interval, that could be used in opposition to them.
To this point, nobody at Fort Bliss has been launched for resettlement.
The Pentagon has mentioned all evacuees are examined for COVID-19 upon arriving at Dulles Worldwide Airport exterior Washington.
The Biden administration can also be utilizing the bottom to accommodate hundreds of immigrant kids, principally from Central America, who’ve been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in document numbers on their very own, with out adults. The kids are housed there till they are often reunited with kin already in america or with a sponsor, often a household buddy, or despatched to a licensed facility.