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Afghan refugees in UAE protest for resettlement in US

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ABU DHABI: Afghan refugees stayed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for months after fleeing Afghanistan last year have protested for a third day, calling for resettlement in the United States.

Hundreds of Afghan nationals held a demonstration on Wednesday at the centre where they are being housed as months of frustrations with what refugees say is a lack of communication over the resettlement process boiled over.

A protester told western media by phone more refugees had joined the demonstration on Friday, a day after a US official visited the centre and told them it could take years for applications to be processed.

The official added that many refugees, however, were unlikely to ever be resettled in the US, according to the protester.

Among the Afghans, advocates say, are those who had worked with the US government and military. 

There are also those who had fought in the Afghan forces before the US-led withdrawal last August when the Western-backed government collapsed and the Taliban took over the country.

Ahmad Mohibi, an advocate who has helped Afghans evacuate and who is in contact with several refugees in the UAE, said the Afghans planned to continue peaceful protests.

The refugees, he said, were appreciative of the care the UAE has provided them but were exasperated by the uncertainty over how much longer they would have to remain at the Abu Dhabi centre.

The UAE agreed with Washington and other Western countries last year to temporarily shelter Afghan nationals evacuated from Afghanistan as they made their way to a third country.

A US State Department spokesperson confirmed several Afghans had taken part in peaceful demonstrations and that US government officials had met with Afghans this week to discuss their concerns with the resettlement process.

The spokesperson said, US screening and vetting of vulnerable Afghans is continuing and that “safe and orderly” travel to the US will be facilitated for those who qualify.

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