UAE: Afghan refugees in UAE protest against ‘slow’ US resettlement process

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The protest by hundreds of Afghan refugees in the United Arab Emirates calling for their immediate resettlement to the US entered its third day on Friday.

The demonstrations began on Wednesday at the centre where they are being housed since fleeing Afghanistan last year as the hardline Taliban took over the government in Kabul.

The Afghan refugees expressed frustrations after months of what they say is a lack of communication over the resettlement process.

A protestor told Reuters by phone more refugees had joined the protest on Friday, a day after a US official visited the centre and told them it could take years for applications to be processed.

Many refugees, however, were unlikely to ever be resettled in the United States, the official told them, according to the protestor.

Ahmad Mohibi, an advocate who has helped Afghans evacuate, including to the UAE, and who is contact with several refugees there, said the refugees planned to continue peaceful protests.

The refugees, he said, were appreciative of the care the UAE has provided them but were exasperated by the uncertainty over how much longer they would have to remain at the Abu Dhabi centre.

The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Emirati government have not commented on the protests. The refugees have complained about prison-like conditions in the centre.

The UAE agreed with Washington and other Western countries last year to temporarily house Afghan nationals evacuated from Afghanistan as they made their way to a third country.

It is unclear how many Afghans refugees are being housed in the UAE, though demonstrators and advocates estimate there are 12,000 temporarily living at two locations in Abu Dhabi.

Afghans have protested outside a US government representative office at one of the centres in Abu Dhabi, holding banners pleading for freedom and urging the US to resettle them.

The US is prioritising those with visas or applications but two sources familiar with cases of refugees in Abu Dhabi said most there had neither.

Advocates say while it is believed thousands of refugees there have a legal path to the United States, many others do not.

They say the refugees include people who had worked with the US government, military and for Afghan forces before the withdrawal of Western forces last August. The Western-backed government collapsed and the hardline Islamist Taliban movement took over the country.

Mohibi said he was coordinating with other advocates and charities to raise the Afghans’ concerns directly with the US government. (Source: CNA)

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