Afghan refugees are subject to security and health screening performed by Department of Homeland Security officials before they’re evacuated to the U.S. or a third country for additional processing, a Biden administration senior official said.
Afghans must clear biometric and biographic vetting including iris scans, palm and voice prints and photographs before they’re evacuated from the country, CNN reported. The refugees are also tested for COVID-19 and offered vaccinations before they’re released, the senior official said in a background press call on Aug. 24.
“That [security screening] process involves biometric and biographic security screenings conducted by our intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals who are working quite literally around the clock to vet all of these Afghans before they’re allowed into the United States,” the Biden administration senior official said on the call.
The Biden administration told refugee organizations to prepare for the arrival of up to 50,000 Afghans without visas, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Nine State Department-contracted nonprofits that resettle refugees in the U.S. are trying to recruit more staff and volunteers to help process arriving Afghans, according to the WSJ. Some of the organizations said they haven’t been told how many refugees to expect or when they might arrive.
“We’re going to make it work, no matter how difficult, but I’d be lying to you if I said we aren’t concerned,” HIAS nonprofit President Mark Hetfield told the WSJ.
In the past month, the State Department resettled over a thousand refugees from Afghanistan, even though the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in refugee camps overseas, including in Greece, where a migrant camp had to be quarantined after 23 asylum seekers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The pause on refugee admissions was expected to last from March 19 through April 6, but according to Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch, 1,003 Afghan refugees were resettled during that approximate time period.