Some 111 Afghan evacuees, who have left their country following the Taliban takeover, arrive at the Pristina International Airport airport in Pristina, Kosovo, 29 August 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Verification Slows Afghan Refugees’ Departure to US

The departure to America of the remaining Afghan refugees in Kosovo depends on completion of a series of detailed checks on their past – and whether they had Taliban links, a US source told Prishtina Insight.

Most Afghan refugees from the Taliban takeover still in Kosovo are women and children of persons undergoing verification processes before moving to the US, a source in the US government told Prishtina Insight.

“About 200 are currently housed at Camp Liya at Camp Bondsteel, the majority of whom are spouses or children of individuals undergoing additional processing,” the source said.

More than 1,300 Afghan nationals sought refuge in Kosovo after August 2021, when Taliban militants seized power in Kabul.

Kosovo is hosting them temporarily, until they pass the verification process for repatriation to third countries.

The Afghans hosted in Kosovo are reported to have been mainly US and NATO collaborators during their presence in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021.

But according to reports by CBS and The Wall Street Journal in January, some risk not being allowed to travel to the US due to concerns about past possible ties to the Taliban.

The same US source emphasized that all the Afghans who are staying in Kosovo must undergo security checks in order to continue towards the US.

This source did not clarify how many of them are undergoing this additional verification.

“Afghan travelers continue to depart Kosovo for the United States once they are cleared by the screening and vetting process and have received the required medical clearance and immunizations,” the source stated.

Regarding a Wall Street Journal report that they include a former Afghan intelligence agency chief, a three-star Afghan general and a former National Security Council spokesman, the source said they are aware of this news but cannot comment on specific cases.

Prishtina Insight has also not received a response from Julie Sirrs, a lawyer helping the former Afghan intelligence-agency chief, who according to The Wall Street Journal is being held together with his family in Kosovo.

To date, nearly 400 individuals directed to Camp Liya for additional processing have proceeded to the United States.      

“The security screening and vetting process is comprehensive, time consuming, and involves multiple government agencies. The process includes reviewing fingerprints, photographs, biometric and biographical data,” the US source explained.

According to this source, each verification case is unique, but they try to complete them within 365 days, as originally agreed with the Kosovo government.

As for those individuals who will not be able to travel to the US, the US government will work with partner countries that will accept them.

The Kosovo Interior Ministry told Prishtina Insight that none of the Afghans hosted in Kosovo had applied for a residence permit.

“Based on the agreement that the government has, Afghan citizens can stay in Kosovo for a year, and so far none of the Afghan citizens has applied for residence in Kosovo,” the ministry stated.

According to the ministry, 283 Afghan citizens remain in Kosovo, who will leave in the direction of other countries. About 135,000 Afghans fled Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power.

23/02/2022 - 14:28

23 February 2022 - 14:28

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.