The Biden administration said late last month that at least 34 children were in U.S. custody after fleeing Afghanistan without an adult relative. It was unclear if that meant they had traveled completely alone. These children have remained in U.S. custody, waiting to be placed with a relative here (similarly to asylum-seeking Central American children). CBS News reports that if children have “come truly alone,” they “could be placed in long-term foster care programs, according to the memo.”
Officials had said that they had expected that group of at least 34 children to grow as larger numbers of Afghan allies and families were being evacuated to the U.S. by the Biden administration as part of Operation Allies Rescue. ”Since August 17, approximately 48,000 Afghan evacuees deemed to be at-risk of being harmed in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan have been allowed to enter the U.S., according to DHS figures,” CBS News reports. Thousands others remain in third-country bases awaiting processing.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which has also advocated for Central American children fleeing to the U.S. for safety, has issued guidance for protecting unaccompanied children fleeing Afghanistan.
”Afghan children and families arriving in the United States have experienced extreme trauma in their flight from harm. Humanitarian reception and response is imperative,” the guidance said. “This includes providing critical support services in the immediate term and throughout the resettlement or reunification process. To that end, we urge the government to provide all families, including children, with immediate access to legal representation and social services to ensure legal protection, provide assistance in processing trauma, and help children and families as they rebuild their lives outside of Afghanistan.”
“We still do not know how many Afghan children will seek international protection, but we do know that early reports suggest that children are arriving in many countries, including the United States, some having lost their families forever, others having been separated from their loved ones in the chaos of fleeing their homeland,” KIND president Wendy Young said. “What the United States and other nations do now will determine the trajectory of these children’s lives. The United States has a responsibility to get this right.”