Afghan Evacuations Must Continue Past August 31st

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Today CGRS joined #WelcomeWithDignity campaign partners and a growing consensus of advocates calling on President Biden to extend the timeline for evacuations from Afghanistan. The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign believes everyone has the right to be safe and to seek safety and the footage of ordinary Afghans scrambling to avoid retribution at the hands of the Taliban show what desperate situations people in Afghanistan face right now. President Biden’s August 31st deadline must be extended to save countless lives. 

“There should be no deadline for seeking safety,” said Bilal Askaryar, #WelcomeWithDignity communications coordinator and Afghan-American activist. “The United States has a moral duty to help people whose lives are endangered because of the mismanaged withdrawal. If President Biden keeps his August 31st deadline, Afghan women and girls, human rights defenders, members of the Hazara, Sikh, and Hindu communities, and other vulnerable groups will either face abject degradation or death. President Biden must listen to advocates, Afghan civil society, and the countless organizations who have joined the call today to protect Afghan refugees.”

“We urge the Biden administration to continue evacuations until Afghans under imminent threat are brought to safety, including those who have provided assistance to U.S. forces, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and LGBTQ+ people,” said Kate Jastram, Policy and Advocacy Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Ending evacuations prematurely based on an arbitrary deadline will lead to profound loss of life. Our country has a moral imperative to continue evacuations of Afghans fleeing Taliban rule.”

“The Women’s Refugee Commission is gravely concerned about President Biden’s decision today to not extend his August 31 deadline to evacuate Americans and certain categories of targeted Afghans,” said Gayatri Patel, vice president of external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Despite efforts throughout the week to evacuate all of the individuals the president pledged to evacuate, WRC remains deeply concerned about the safety and rights of Afghan civilians, particularly women’s rights activists and other human rights defenders. We strongly urge President Biden to reconsider this decision and extend the slated August 31 deadline to ensure a safe and sustainable evacuation of all persons at risk.” 

“Most Afghans in danger, including IRAP’s Afghan ally clients, have not been evacuated and remain either unable to get into the airport or stranded across Afghanistan without safe passage to Kabul,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Meanwhile, the threat of Taliban violence continues to loom large. In order to fulfill America’s moral and legal commitments, we must not leave anyone behind. We call on the United States to do everything in its power to bring as many people to safety before it is too late.”

The Afghans who need rescue from the Taliban are not only the people who worked directly for US or allied forces. They also include Afghan activists, journalists, and others who acted on the rights that US and allied forces helped to secure in recent years," said Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “The Biden administration should not end its evacuation effort until these Afghans now at grave risk are included. The Taliban also should recognize everyone’s right to leave and allow safe departure, even after international forces have left.”

“The Biden administration had months to prepare for an orderly evacuation of Afghan refugees, at-risk populations, and servicemembers,” said Daniel Tully, counsel at Justice Action Center. “Their preparations, however, were clearly inadequate to the task at hand. The administration must honor its commitments to those who put themselves in harm’s way to assist American forces, journalists, and others, along with its commitments to those who will be targeted.” 

“This is a chance for the U.S. to reaffirm its leadership as a welcoming nation and recommit ourselves to our highest ideals,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “We are strong enough, generous enough and smart enough to welcome brothers and sisters who stood with us and stood up for human rights in Afghanistan, who are fleeing deteriorating country conditions in Haiti, or who seek safety and better life from any part of the world where their survival is in jeopardy. And we can do it through an orderly, legal, humane and fair process.” 

“As Afghanistan faces renewed conflict and a severe humanitarian crisis, it is our moral and legal obligation to provide safety for the most vulnerable Afghans, especially those who directly supported US interests,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “We call on the Biden Administration to extend the current withdrawal deadline of August 31 until all US citizens, Afghan allies, and other vulnerable people are able to safely leave Afghanistan.”

“With every day that passes, the lives and safety of thousands of Afghans are at greater risk,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director at Refugee Congress. “We cannot be bound to a deadline. We are bound to ensure that we protect our allies and all vulnerable Afghans including women, girls, LGBTQ+ individuals, targeted minority groups, and so many others in peril. The Biden administration absolutely must extend the withdrawal deadline and do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to evacuate those who are most vulnerable to safety.”

“After decades of military intervention, the minimum that the United States government should guarantee its Afghan allies is the protection of their lives and those of their families,” said Elket Rodríguez, Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy and Missions Specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Fellowship Southwest. “The administration had time to prepare for these evacuations, and to protect the lives of thousands of people who trusted our military. The President must extend the evacuation process until no citizen, legal permanent resident or Afghan ally is left behind.”

#WelcomeWithDignity’s statement on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is available here.