More than 2,000 Afghans still

Thousands of Afghans who fled their country after the Taliban’s shocking 2021 takeover are still there. “Arbitrarily detained” in a camp in the United Arab Emirates Without fair access to the process by which they can apply for refugee status. The report was released on Wednesday. By Human Rights Watch.

Between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghans hoping to resettle in Western countries have been trapped in the “Emirates Humanitarian City” for more than 15 months, with no freedom to leave the fenced housing complex, the report said. The report states that conditions have deteriorated significantly since their first arrival.

“Emirati authorities have held thousands of Afghan refugees in cramped and squalid conditions for more than 15 months, with little hope of progress in their cases,” said Joy Shea, UAE researcher at Human Rights Watch. ” “Having endured the significant trauma of fleeing Afghanistan, he is now experiencing further trauma after spending more than a year in the UAE.”

After the fall of the US-backed government in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the US and its partners evacuated thousands of vulnerable Afghans and their families at an incredible rate to other places around the world, including the US and Canada. The UAE agreed to act as an intermediary country and accommodated thousands of people who were then hoping to apply for asylum protection in third countries. They were moved to a specially designed housing facility, the “Humanitarian City”, pending the go-ahead.

Those still trapped in the UAE camp include high-ranking officials from the previous government and those who worked for US government-affiliated agencies or programs in Afghanistan. Some of these people have had their asylum cases rejected, while others’ applications are still pending because they do not have sufficient documents to be accepted by third countries.

One man interviewed by HRW said he worked as a security guard at the US embassy in Kabul and another at a laundromat at a US airbase.

“The camp is like a prison,” HRW quoted an Afghan in the camp as saying.

“The big problem is that we don’t know our future and we don’t know our destination,” said another.

HRW did not name the individuals, but said it had “interviewed 16 Afghans detained in the emirate’s Humanitarian City in October and November 2022, eight of whom were previously US government officials in Afghanistan.” had worked for institutions or programs affiliated with

An Afghan man told the group that camp officials had told him he needed a visa to leave the camp. A similar account was given to CBS News in January by an Afghan man whose wife and children were trapped in the facility. He said he is in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, but has not been able to see his wife or children a few miles away for a year.

The camp has one room accommodation for each family.

“We have been here for 14 months, and life is very difficult… the same room is used as a dining room, living room and bedroom, and the washroom is inside the room,” said one woman interviewed by HRW. said Others spoke of poor sanitation, bed bug infestations and mental and physical health problems among housing complex residents.

Those trapped in the facility have repeatedly protested, demanding the US and its allies move them to third countries.

A video from January showed protesters chanting “We want justice” and holding a white banner, declaring themselves “forgotten” by the US Customs and Immigration Service and the international community. Is.

In another video, from mid-2022, children inside the camp hold up a banner that reads “Justice”.

HRW calls on the UAE government to immediately grant Afghan evacuees freedom of movement in and out of the camps and ensure access to a fair and individualized process for refugee status determination and protection.

The group also called on the United States and other developed countries to urgently speed up resettlement processes for those trapped in the camps, and to consider the cases of individuals more generously as they return to their families. want to be reunited with, and find safe new homes with access to education. and employment.

As CBS News immigration reporter Camilo Montoya Galvez reported in August, unlike the more than 70,000 Afghans who were directly deported and then Rapidly resettled After some security checks by the US in 2021, those living in Humanitarian City are subject to a slow, case-by-case immigration review by US authorities that includes no guarantee of US resettlement.

Under US policy, Afghan nationals transferred to the UAE before August 31, 2021 – weeks after Kabul fell to the Taliban – are allowed to enter the US if they pass certain medical and security checks. was effectively warranted, the State Department told CBS News. . But people who arrived after that date but want to move to the U.S. must prove they qualify for a U.S. immigration benefit, such as a visa or refugee status.

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