Washington, DC – Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) today cautioned that as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates and terrorist attacks threaten those fleeing, including children and families, the Biden Administration should prioritize efforts to welcome unaccompanied children who arrive in the United States and to ensure successful reunifications for children separated from their families during the chaotic exodus from Kabul.
“Yesterday’s tragic terrorist attacks that took the lives of numerous Afghans and U.S. military personnel carrying out their mission to protect them makes clear the dangers faced by those who remain in Kabul and the urgent need to successfully evacuate as many refugees as possible ahead of next week’s U.S. withdrawal deadline,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “We know that among those arriving in the United States are unaccompanied children, including some who have been separated from family members relocated to other nations. In the chaos of the current situation, the United States has a special responsibility to ensure their successful reunification. It must also provide key legal and social service protections for unaccompanied Afghan children in the United States after a harrowing journey out of harms’ way.”
KIND notes that dangerous humanitarian crisis situations too often result in the separation of children from parents and caregivers. While the total number of Afghan children arriving in the United States alone is currently unclear but likely to grow, it is essential that the Biden Administration prioritize the following efforts:
- Create a successful system for Afghan family reunifications: KIND notes that the United States and European nations currently welcoming Afghan refugees are poorly prepared to bring about transatlantic family reunifications swiftly and with full consideration of what is in the best interests of the child. U.S. and European governments, and the international community more widely, should establish a coordinated process that is rooted in child safety and avoids bureaucratic delays. This is essential for the well-being of the child and to ameliorate the trauma experienced by the family. Coordination must begin immediately to prevent long term separation.
- Provide immediate access to legal representation and social services: Families, including children, arriving in the United States should be provided access to legal and social services upon arrival, which they need to ensure legal protection, begin to process their trauma, and be able to rebuild their lives outside of Afghanistan. Pragmatic and efficient solutions should be devised to afford them protection under U.S. law, including expedited refugee determinations.
- Harness resources to best serve fleeing children and families: The United States and other governments participating in the effort to protect those fleeing Afghanistan should coordinate with international organizations, civil society organizations, and community-level groups to provide holistic services for Afghan refugees. This coordination will ensure that evacuees, including children and families, can efficiently access services and do not slip between the cracks. In the United States, the Biden Administration and Congress should harness the power of existing resources and provide whatever funding is needed to support these efforts at every level, including legal services.
- Immediately place child welfare experts in airports, military bases, shelters or wherever else needed to ensure the safety of Afghan children as they are processed, transported, housed, and ultimately relocated to U.S. communities.
Young concluded, “Given the urgency of this crisis, the United States must avoid a bureaucratic response and lean into laws designed to protect refugees, draw upon the expertise and manpower of groups dedicated to ensuring the safety of those fleeing for their lives, and implement policies that ensure that children and families have the care they need as they recover from the trauma of forced displacement.”
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