The Biden administration has barred a flight carrying American citizens as well as Afghans with green cards and Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) from landing in the United States, allegedly over concerns about vetting.
Reports said the Kam Air flight from Kabul containing 28 Americans, 83 Afghan green card holders, and six with SIVs was stranded Wednesday after the Department of Homeland Security refused to allow the plane to land anywhere in the U.S. The SIVs have generally been granted to Afghan citizens who assisted U.S. military and diplomatic efforts at some point during the 20-year conflict.
Initially, according to reports, the flight was cleared to land in New York City but the destination was later changed to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. before being disallowed altogether.
Bryan Stern, himself a veteran and the organizer of the evacuation flight, said that the flight took off from the international airport in Kabul but then was held on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi for roughly 14 hours with 117 people on board, including 59 children.
“Right now we have 59 children sleeping on airport chairs and cold airport floors – not the warm bed with a hot meal that we’d arranged for all of them stateside – because the US Government denied our flight clearance into ALL US ports of entry,” said Project Dynamo, which is in charge of the evacuation flight, according to a post on the organization’s Instagram page.
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“They escaped the regime they were running from only to have the government they were running HOME TO, turn them away. This cannot be what America does to Americans,” the post adds.
“These Americans are being denied entry into THEIR OWN COUNTRY by the US Government,” the organization said in another Instagram post.
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In a Reuters interview, Stern said the initial plan was to transfer all of the passengers to an Ethiopian Airlines flight charted to fly into JFK International in New york. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection then switched clearance to Dulles before barring the flight altogether.
Reuters said that a Biden administration official claimed the reason for the delay is that it takes time to confirm manifests of charter flights before they are permitted to land in the U.S., but that seems arbitrary given that DHS had cleared the flight to land twice before banning it altogether. What’s more, the flight is filled with American citizens as well as Afghans who have already been cleared to the point of being given green cards and SIVs.
According to the Daily Mail, Stern said that intermediaries in Kabul got permission from the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority, now run by the Taliban government, for evacuation groups to book charter flights and get people out via Kabul. He added that the U.S. State Department and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs both cooperated as well.
“The U.S. government understands the need to coordinate across agencies, as we have done, but we also appreciate the desire of NGOs and private citizens to assist and have identified a greater need for coordination there,” a State Department official told CNN.
The Biden administration has said that it is a top priority to evacuate remaining Americans and U.S. allies from Afghanistan, the Daily Mail added. But tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom were not vetted, were evacuated from the country last month ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline and are now residing in the U.S.
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