Thousands of Afghan refugees have resettled in America - Our expert explains the resettlement process

Thousands of Afghan refugees have resettled in America - Our expert explains the resettlement process

February 23, 20222 min read

Operation Allies Welcome -- the official name for the American government's ongoing effort to assist vulnerable Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan -- is the most significant U.S. resettlement effort since 1975. As of February 2022, some 65,000 Afghans have evacuated and settled in American communities.

UConn School of Social work professors Kathryn Libal and Scott Harding have extensively studied the refugee resettlement process in America. In a recent essay for The Conversation, they detailed the resettlement process that refugees face -- and the challenges that individuals, families, agencies, and volunteers are enduring as the effort strains an already overburdened system.

U.S. agencies brought in Afghans under humanitarian parole, rather than standard refugee procedures, because of the urgency of the evacuation. But the consequences may be profound.

Some parolees had to wait weeks or months for the government or social service organizations to file paperwork granting them the right to work. Another challenge for parolees is securing family members’ admission to the U.S., which requires a high level of proof of threat to that particular individual.

Many Afghan parolees should eventually qualify for asylum, but applying is a lengthy and complex process that generally requires significant legal assistance. More than 400,000 asylum cases are pending in the U.S. asylum system.

Refugee resettlement organizations and voluntary groups that could normally help with filing asylum claims are already stretched thin. Evacuees’ advocates have called for approval of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghans to apply for lawful permanent resident status without waiting for the asylum system to rule on their cases or processing of special immigrant visa applications.

Governors, businesses, celebrities, universities, military members, veterans and individuals across the U.S. have stepped in to support recent Afghan evacuees – many in locales with no history of resettling refugees. The responsibilities of resettlement, however, extend beyond helping evacuees in their first few weeks, to helping them secure a stable future. -- The Conversation, February 18, 2022

An associate professor of social work and human rights, Kathryn Libal is the director of UConn's Human Rights Institute and is an expert on human rights, refugee resettlement, and social welfare. She is available to speak with media – click on her icon now to arrange an interview.

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  • Kathryn Libal, Ph.D.
    Kathryn Libal, Ph.D. Director, Human Rights Institute and Associate Professor, Social Work & Human Rights

    Professor Libal researches human rights norms and practices, including the ability to secure adequate food and housing.

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