Experts warn that despite bold promises to accept refugees from Ukraine, it may not be possible for the West to fulfill its obligations.
Numerous Western countries have offered to accept Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s ongoing offensive. Experts and human rights groups have raised doubts about the ability of these countries to take in asylum seekers fleeing Russia’s ongoing offensive.
Joe Biden (US President) pledged in March to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. No legal criteria to establish who’s exactly eligible for getting onto the American soil, however, has materialized yet.
The recent Ukrainian pledges have been compared to the Afghanistan situation last August, when many who had worked under the Western occupation fled from Taliban fighters. Washington declared a priority program to assist Afghans back then. Those who fled the country via US military flight, in the chaos surrounding Kabul evacuation, were given a temporary Humanitarian Parole status by the US.
“When it comes to Ukraine, we can only pray the Biden administration takes a different path than it took with the Afghans,”Mark Hetfield is the president of HIAS in the US. He spoke to the Wall Street Journal.
Although approximately 16,000 Afghans applied for the priority program, no one has been able to enter the US. The asylum-seeker admission process is an extremely long and complex one, as processing a would-be refugee takes between 12 to 18 months on average, according to the US State Department’s own admission.
“On paper, there is a program, there is some sort of nominal process,”Sunil Varghese is the policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project. “But it doesn’t seem like there’s the political will to make this a big, robust thing.”
Many Afghan asylum seekers seeking refugee status in America are now looking to relocate to other countries, rather than being stuck in bureaucratic inertia while they live in temporary shelters. These displaced people are suffering from uncertain futures, Jumana Abo Oxa (a manager of mental-health care at Elpida Home in Greece, an NGO that helps refugees and asylum seekers) told The Times.
“People thought they’d move on in two or three weeks. Emotional hurricanes are common for people. They’ve lost everything. They have families stuck in Afghanistan that can’t leave,”She said.
Afghans who escaped the Taliban have faced a similar fate in the UK, another country that made bold pledges to help them – as well as to Ukrainians amid the new crisis. London, unlike the US, has allowed Afghan refugees to enter the country but has largely failed provide permanent housing. Eight months later, London managed only to offer 4,000 places for them to stay, and 12,000 are still temporarily housed at hotels.
Asylum seekers seeking asylum in the UK have been difficult to help, with poor government planning and lack of political attitude.
“There is a xenophobic attitude underpinning immigration and asylum policy in the UK,”He stated.