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Biden Administration Urged to Accept Afghan Families Who Have Languished in Greece for Over 18 Months

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Image Credit: Nicolas Economou via Reuters Connect

We speak with Jumana Abo Oxa, project manager at the Greek refugee project, Elpida Home, who is in Washington, D.C., where she is meeting with Biden administration officials and lawmakers in an effort to seek help for 82 families, including many women parliamentarians, who evacuated from Afghanistan but have been stuck in Greece for over a year and a half.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to also talk to Jumana Abo Oxa, who is project manager at the Greek refugee project Elpida Home, now in Washington, D.C., trying to deal with the fact that you’re representing, what, some 82 families, a number of women parliamentarians, from Afghanistan who evacuated from Afghanistan, like Farzana, but have been stuck in Greece for over a year and a half. What is the issue, Jumana?

JUMANA ABO OXA: Good morning, Amy, and thank you for the invite.

We have — our organization, Elpida Home, has been founded by our founder, Amed Khan, who’s an American philanthropist. And after the fall of Kabul in August ’21, he had evacuated over 1,000 Afghans to different countries. In Greece, we have received around 400 people. Out of those, we had 18 women Parliament members of Afghanistan, and their family members. Eighty percent of those have already left; however, the 20% left is still in Greece.

We have different applications for different people. Like, we have applications to the U.S. There are four different applications to the U.S. And we have applications to Canada. Each application has its timeline. For Canada, which was the fastest application and which most of the parliamentarians have for, the 20%, according to Canadian sources, it’s under a security screening. It’s been more than 18 months that these people have been in Greece. We’ve been hosting them, providing them with all — with assistance on everything — medical, mental health, legal, support in finding jobs, trying to help the kids going to school, different other services that we provide. However, their applications have been stuck.

This is why I’m currently in D.C. and next week I will be in New York, to try to have meetings and push for the expedite of the visas of the families that we are hosting. I know that there’s — it’s very important to do the security checks and the security screenings. However, these people are stranded. They are in limbo. There is nothing clear for them for how long they will stay. They’re already stressed and depressed from becoming refugees outside their countries. However, the stress of not knowing when and if they will move on to their destination country is also making it worse. We’re seeing a lot of depression, self-harm, increased problems within the families and stress. And we are trying to do our best in order to make sure that these families move on to their final destination and resettle and start their families — their new lives there with their families.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jumana, we don’t have very much time, but if you could say a little bit more about what you understand — you were saying that Canada has been the easiest country and the fastest for Afghan refugees to go. What is holding this up now? What kinds of security clearances are these Afghan parliamentarians, former parliamentarians, required now to submit to?

JUMANA ABO OXA: I wish I knew. We’ve been asking. It’s not just for Canada; it’s for the U.S., as well. For Canada, we had 80% leaving who had applications to Canada; the 20% are still under security screening, which we are not aware of what’s happening. But for everyone else, it’s the same. We have lots of cases who are highly — the people we are hosting, they are our parliamentarians, doctors, ministers, judges, human rights activists, women activists. And all these people are well known and had strong links with either the American government or with the foreign allies. And their CV and history is clear. And we see how many applications are processed, and at some stage they’re stuck. Just before receiving the visa, it gets sent back to their country, to the country for additional reviewing or for additional papers. So, there’s a lot of delays happening, a lot of frustration because nothing is clear.

AMY GOODMAN: Jumana Abo Oxa, we’ll continue to follow this story, project manager at the Greek refugee project Elpida Home, in from Greece to lobby Biden administration officials to accept Afghan women parliamentarians and their families and others who have been languishing in Greece for the last year and a half. And Farzana Kochai, Afghan women’s rights activist who served in the Afghan Parliament, speaking to us from Winnipeg, Canada.

Next up, in a victory for Greenpeace and free speech, a SLAPP suit, $100 million, brought by a Canada logging company, that threatened the future of Greenpeace, has been settled. Stay with us.

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