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Biden Administration Sued as Thousands of Afghan Evacuees Are Detained Overseas Waiting for U.S. Entry

StorySeptember 01, 2023
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More than two years after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan evacuees seeking to come to the United States remain arbitrarily detained in other countries like Qatar, Kosovo and the United Arab Emirates. Many of the Afghans are living in camps that are largely coordinated, facilitated or under the control of the U.S. government. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the civil rights group Muslim Advocates recently sued the Pentagon, State Department and the Department of Homeland Security seeking governmental records about the relocation and detention of Afghan evacuees. “What this lawsuit hopes to achieve is to provide more information to humanitarian, human rights and civil society organizations … to intervene and prevent the continued detention of these Afghan civilians,” says CCR attorney Sadaf Doost.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

Thousands of Afghan evacuees seeking to come to the United States remain arbitrarily detained in other countries two years after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Many of the Afghans are living in camps in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kosovo, that are largely coordinated, facilitated or under the control of the U.S. government. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the group Muslim Advocates recently sued the Pentagon, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, seeking governmental records about the relocation and detention of Afghan evacuees.

We’re joined now by Sadaf Doost. She’s an attorney and Bertha Justice fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Can you lay out, Sadaf, the extent of the problem, how many people are being held, and what they need to come into the United States?

SADAF DOOST: Thank you so much for raising awareness and covering this issue.

Just as you had mentioned, thousands of Afghan civilians are being arbitrarily detained at these sites. And this comes after 20 — decades of occupation and invasion and war at the hands of the U.S. government. So we’re still seeing that two years after the U.S. declared the end of its War in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians still continue to be suffering human rights and humanitarian violations at the hands of the U.S. government.

The numbers, because of the very limited reporting that is out there, is uncertain, but what limited reporting is out there indicates that it’s over 3,000 people, up to 5,000 or more. And these sites, just as you have mentioned, the ones that are more reported about are in the UAE, Qatar and Kosovo, but other sites in Albania, Germany, possibly others exist, as well.

And what this lawsuit hopes to achieve is to provide more information to humanitarian, human rights and civil society organizations who really are hoping to hold the government accountable and meaningfully engaged to intervene and prevent the continued detention of these Afghan civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Sadaf, tell us who these people are and what — I mean, the site in Kosovo, for example, has been nicknamed “Little Guantánamo.” What happens if they leave the camps? And what was their relationship with the United States as the U.S. occupied Afghanistan? Why did they flee Afghanistan?

SADAF DOOST: Yeah, in Kosovo, it is nicknamed “Little Guantánamo” because of the horrifying conditions. Last year there was a protest staged by those Afghans detained at these sites, asking for better conditions, asking any government that has a hand in facilitating or coordinating these sites for better conditions.

These individuals include human rights activists who had to flee Afghanistan because the Taliban is now searching for those individuals. This includes journalists, some who worked with news organizations based out here in the U.S. or elsewhere. It includes women rights activists and just lawyers, prosecutors, judges, as well as your everyday Afghan civilians, who had to flee because of the compounding humanitarian and human rights crisis in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a clip that we have to play of a person who is waiting. This is a clip that we got, that you can introduce it, of a young person who is waiting to come into the country, Sadaf. Let’s turn to the clip.

IDRIS: Half the passengers fell into the water and were swallowed up by the sea. Those who were left in the boat tried to stay alive with the help of their tubes. About two hours later, the French police arrived and threw tubes at us to save us. Those boys who were in the boat also took along six bodies of those who had died on the boat. The rest of the Afghans were lost. Half of the survivors were taken out by the U.K. police. … I never believed I would survive. I thought I was dying, and was ready to die. I asked God to forgive my sins. I also remembered my mother and father. I kept swimming for the sake of my parents and my brothers and sisters, because we have left home and are going through all of this suffering for their sake. I was fast losing the strength to swim, but I kept trying very hard to keep afloat.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a clip of a young man who was saved, 22-year-old Idris. Last month, a boat full of mostly Afghan refugees capsized in the English Channel as it tried to reach Britain from France. Six of the people died. Talk about the lengths people are going to.

SADAF DOOST: The lengths are extreme. And what we’re hearing from Afghan civilians is that they don’t want to leave their home. No person wants to leave their family and their loved ones and where they built a life, a place that they are familiar with, but they have no other option because of the United States’ hasty withdrawal and the ground that it laid for what we’re seeing now today.

There are other reports, Afghans here in the U.S. southern border that are facing very similar conditions, where they’re not being welcomed. They are traveling multiple continents, 12 to 14 countries, just to come here in the U.S. and be locked up, and discriminatory policies that are really targeting Muslims and Afghans.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much, Sadaf Doost, for joining us, Afghan American attorney, Bertha Justice fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights. And we will continue to follow this case.

To see our podcasts, video and audio podcasts, and sign up for our news website, you can go to democracynow.org, our newsletter. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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