Afghan refugees hoping to resettle in the United States could be stuck on military bases until 2022 as the US and United Nations struggle to find them homes due to a colliding set of inhibiting factors, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Just 6,000 refugees have settled in permanent homes across the country, while 50,000 remain housed at eight stateside military bases and another 10,000 live at bases overseas, WSJ said.
Their transition to life as US residents had been slowed by a series of challenges, according to the report — including a nationwide housing shortage and a measles outbreak that prompted officials to vaccinate the refugees for the disease plus polio and COVID-19. Manuel intake using paper forms further delayed the process due to a “high rate of error,” according to the report.
“There is no way we are done by Christmas,” one defense official told the paper — despite the Defense Department’s initial plans to have the entire group resettled by the end of 2021.
The Afghan refugees’ immigration status is not guaranteed unless Congress passes a Biden administration proposal to give them green cards, WSJ said. If the bill fails to pass, the group will have to apply through the standard asylum process, which is notoriously backlogged.
Until they are resettled, the refugees are stuck in cramped military barracks.
Refugee Sahar Mohammad, a former US military translator, told WSJ his family initially lived in a tent at New Jersey’s Fort Dix without doors or sound control. He and his family came to the US with one bag per person, and have not been given warmer clothes for the fall.
“I don’t want to complain because we are in the U.S., and they are trying their best,” he told the Journal. “But it is hard. We can’t start our own lives or send our kids to school. We feel like we are not free.”