Aug 23, 2021
USCIRF Calls on the State Department to Prioritize Refugee Resettlement of Afghan Religious Minorities
Encourages Expansion of U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls on the State Department to expand its Priority 2 (P-2) designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) access for certain Afghan nationals and their family members to include members of religious groups at extreme risk of persecution by the Taliban.
“The Taliban’s imposition of their harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam in the areas that they have taken over poses a grave threat to all Afghans of differing interpretations and other faiths or beliefs. The outlook for the country’s religious minorities is particularly bleak, with threats of Taliban persecution mounting,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza. “As Afghans are forced to flee their homes on account of their beliefs, the U.S. government must ensure that the most vulnerable among them have a pathway to seek refuge in the United States.”
On August 2, the State Department created a P-2 designation for certain Afghan nationals, but did not clearly extend this prioritization to include religious minorities.
“USCIRF recognizes that the U.S. government is working around the clock to evacuate American citizens and Afghans with U.S. affiliations, and we continue to urge that Afghan religious minorities should be included in this effort,” stated USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie. “In addition, we urge the Biden Administration to take immediate action to broaden the recent P-2 designation to explicitly include Afghan religious minorities, in recognition of the severe risks they already face, which will only heighten after the end of the U.S. evacuation.”
In June, USCIRF hosted a virtual event highlighting deteriorating religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan. In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department re-designate the Taliban as an Entity of Particular Concern “for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
USCIRF also recommended that the U.S. government prioritize for resettlement through the USRAP survivors of the most egregious forms of religious persecution and raise the annual ceiling of refugees who are admitted to the United States. USCIRF held a hearing on “Refugees Fleeing Religious Persecution” in February that examined ways in which the U.S. government could better support refugees and asylum seekers.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov.