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US senators back former Afghan pilot’s asylum appeal

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
July 24, 2023

US senators have joined calls for a former Afghan pilot to be granted sanctuary after he was left in “legal limbo” by the UK, The Independent has reported.

The veteran, who aided the British Armed Forces in combat missions, arrived in the UK via a small boat last year, but has been threatened with deportation to Rwanda, which means his asylum application cannot progress.

Following the warnings over his potential deportation, the man — whose family is still in hiding in Afghanistan — turned to the US for assistance.

His appeal was met with support by two serving US senators, who have said that Afghans who aided the Western-led intervention should be granted asylum and permission to begin new lives.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said that he believed Afghans arriving in the US would be vetted correctly.

He said: “I think many of those things worked themselves out and we still owe them. I believe we owe it to those who serve alongside our men and women and our NATO partners and allies to get them where they want to be.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar told The Independent that Afghans who “helped our military literally are holding letters from top military people saying that they saved their lives and they should not be in legal limbo.”

The former pilot has said he feels “abandoned” by the UK Home Office, which is responsible for processing his asylum claim and overseeing his potential deportation to Rwanda.

As part of his appeal to the US, the veteran has already completed an initial interview with immigration authorities covering relocation terms.

He said of the UK: “At the moment I feel like it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you did with the allies, troops or partner countries.

“Right now I hear lots of Afghan diplomats, military generals, and others. They are saying that the government doesn’t care about us, who we are and what we did with them. I think the government is not seeing us as colleagues.”

The pilot expressed his frustration over the continued threat of deportation, with his removal notice being maintained despite the UK’s Court of Appeal ruling that the Rwanda returns agreement is illegal.

He said: “I don’t know why they haven’t removed the notice. I am scared they are still trying to send people to Rwanda and, of course, I am worried about what they will do next. Lately, I am completely disappointed in the UK government.”

The policy of the US regarding Afghan veteran colleagues saw former interpreters and soldiers arrive in the country on temporary humanitarian grounds.

But a bipartisan senatorial group is attempting to push through a law that would see the Afghan veterans be granted permanent residency on the grounds that they aided the Western-led intervention.

The Afghan Adjustment Act aims to fulfill the commitment of the US to veterans, said Sen. Chris Coons.

He added: “The core objective of this bill is to ensure that every Afghan currently here is vetted and has a pathway toward a legal status in the US, making it possible for additional Afghans who served alongside our troops, and the troops of our treasured NATO allies like the UK, to have a safe path in a safe passage to our country.”


(c) 2023 the Arab News

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