(Photo credit: Wall Street Journal)
On 23 August and continuing into the following day, hundreds of Afghan refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan last year staged demonstrations in protest of the delayed resettlement process.
The refugees are currently housed in a facility in Abu Dhabi as they wait to be resettled in the US and other countries.
The UAE facility, known as Emirates Humanitarian City, has reportedly been housing the refugees under poor living conditions, which some of them have described as resembling prison.
“Nearly one year, we have been here in detention and the camp is like a modern prison. No one is allowed to go out, they don’t know when (we) will be settled permanently to any country,” one of the Afghan refugees, who remained anonymous, told media.
Despite these reports, the UAE has asserted that it remains committed to the “safety, security, and dignity” of the refugees.
Emirati officials have acknowledged the impatience and frustration of the Afghans, and have said that they are in collaboration with the US embassy in order to finally launch the resettlement, which is “taking longer than expected,” media reported.
This is not the first time Afghan evacuees have held protests in the UAE over their stalled resettlement, which in February resulted in a number of Afghan protestors being detained by Emirati police.
Amid these protests, US embassy officials visited the facility and informed the refugees that there was no fixed timetable for their transfer, and that it would be unlikely that all Afghan refugees would be transferred to the US.
Estimates indicate that there are about 12,000 Afghan refugees residing in the Gulf country, who remain stranded without guarantees of being resettled anytime soon.
More than 120,000 refugees were airlifted and scattered around the world since the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last August. Out of these, 76,000 have reached the US.
In the UK, only 7,000 Afghan refugees have been rehoused in a year, out of the 20,000 that arrived in the country.
In April, it was reported that that the government of US President Joe Biden denied at least 85 percent of asylum request applications by Afghans who fled the country.
Since the US froze Afghanistan’s foreign reserves last year, the country has been plunged into a devastating humanitarian and economic crisis, with reports showing that 97 percent of Afghan families are struggling to provide enough food for their children.
According to informed sources that spoke with Reuters, the US will restart talks with Taliban officials to return half of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves currently held in the Federal Bank of New York.
Last week, Washington decided against the return of the funds, but reportedly backtracked from their decision, allegedly in an attempt to “help stabilize Afghanistan’s collapsed economy.”