44 Afghan evacuees flagged as 'potential risks' by US
Forty-four Afghan evacuees were flagged as potential security risks by the United States' Department of Homeland Security, according to DHS vetting records reviewed by The Washington Post.
The government screened thousands of Afghans for a resettlement programme broadly supported by US citizens.
In addition, 13 Afghans are currently waiting in US Customs and Border Protection for additional screening procedures and interviews with FBI and counterterrorism, and 15 evacuees have been turned over to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent back to sites in Europe and the Middle East.
However, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters the number of people being set aside for extra vetting is “extraordinarily de minimis”.
Those who have been selected for extra screening do not automatically prove to be risks, and often it is a case of being flagged after “additional information comes to the attention of CBP officers…when passengers hand over their unlocked phones”.
This comes as some 60,000 evacuees have arrived in the US since 17 August, when the Taliban entered Kabul and took over the rest of the country, prompting Afghans to flee.
The question of where Afghan refugees will stay in the US has raised human rights concerns, particularly in one of the potential sites, in Texas.
A plan by the US to host Afghan evacuees in El Paso, Texas, has been judged "not safe" by experts due to reports of violations of migrant children's rights in the past following their crossing from neighbouring Mexico.
The plan to house fleeing Afghans at the million-acre Fort Bliss military base received bipartisan support but was met with concerns by immigration rights experts.
One expert who spoke to UK newspaper The Guardian on condition of anonymity said that while Fort Bliss was not intended for permanent resettlement, those escaping the Taliban rule might need to stay at the facility for as long as a year while their papers are processed.