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U.S. to begin new Afghan refugee program

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2021)

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will launch a new program to resettle certain Afghans as refugees in the United States, an administration official and two knowledgeable sources said on Sunday.

The U.S. State Department was expected to announce the setting-up of the so-called Priority Two refugee program on Monday, the three sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The program comes as fighting surges in Afghanistan ahead of the formal completion of the U.S. troop withdrawal at the end of this month, with the Taliban pushing to capture key provincial capitals.

Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups to aid Afghans at risk of Taliban retaliation because of their association with the United States during the 20-year U.S. war.

The administration official said the new refugee program would cover Afghans who worked for U.S.-funded projects and for U.S.-based non-government bodies and media outlets.

Those Afghans do not qualify for the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program that covers interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. government, and their families.

About 200 SIV applicants whose visas are in the final stages of processing and family members flew into the United States last week at the start of an evacuation effort dubbed “Operation Allies Refuge” that could include as many as 50,000 people or more.

They were taken to stay at a military base in Virginia to complete their final formalities before being resettled around the country.

The administration official said the new program for Afghans would differ from a Prority Two refugee program for Iraqis that has been indefinitely suspended while U.S. officials pursue a sweeping fraud investigation.

The new Afghan program will require applicants to be referred by U.S. agencies, senior U.S. officials, non-government bodies or media outlets, the official added.

The referral requirement is a key difference between the new Afghan program and the Iraqi program, which allows Iraqis to apply directly without a referral, the official said.

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Baradar meets with Bayat chairman to discuss continued investment in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

The deputy prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for economic affairs, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, met with Dr Ehsanollah Bayat, the chairman of the Bayat Group and its subsidiary the Bayat Foundation, this weekend to discuss the company’s future plans regarding ongoing investment in the country.

The Bayat Group is Afghanistan’s largest private diversified services company, comprising telecoms, media, energy, technology and other enterprises, while the Bayat Foundation provides life saving aid to Afghans in times of need as well as health services.

In their meeting Saturday, Baradar and Dr Bayat discussed investment possibilities in a number of sectors.

According to Baradar’s office, Dr Bayat said he was ready to invest in Afghanistan in the health, electricity and telecommunications sectors.

In a series of tweets, Baradar’s office noted that the deputy prime minister told Dr Bayat in the meeting: “We appreciate and support all the efforts of businessmen and investors in the economic reconstruction of the country.”

He added: “Anyone who invests in Afghanistan and provides job opportunities for the people, we will support him and assure them of their security in the country.”

Baradar also thanked Dr Bayat for the services being provided by the Bayat Group and by the Bayat Foundation.

From 4G LTE communications to electric power, broadcasting, high speed internet, construction and mobile money, The Bayat Group builds market-leading enterprises that provide Afghans with innovative and popular products and services.

A champion of Afghan-based economic development, The Bayat Group provides employment to more than 10,000 Afghans through its direct operations and employs more than 100,000 other Afghan citizens through its ecosystem of dealers and vendors.

The foundation, which was started in 2006, has meanwhile helped rebuild Afghanistan as well as deliver hope and support to the neediest and most at-risk Afghans.

Involved in building mosques, and in the health care and education sectors, the foundation also answers to calls following natural disasters and times of human suffering.

A key example of the type of assistance provided by the Bayat Foundation was in the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

Within hours of Wednesday’s quake, the foundation had dispatched not only essential relief including shelter, blankets and food, but also a team of doctors and a mobile clinic with life saving medicines to treat the injured.

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China pledges over $7 million in aid for quake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

China’s ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu met with Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and said his country would provide emergency aid worth 50 million Yuan ($7.5 million) for victims of last week’s earthquake. 

At a meeting on Saturday in Kabul, Wang also said that MCC Mes Aynak copper mining contractor would provide $200,000 in aid. 

Wang said on Twitter: “Chinese enterprises will definitely fulfill their social responsibilities. The friendship between 2 countries and peoples will be further strengthened.”

Muttaqi thanked the Chinese government and people for the timely assistance and assured Wang that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities would distribute the aid promptly, fairly and transparently, state-run Bakhtar news agency reported. 

Aid provided by China will include tents, sheets, fold up beds, and other items urgently needed by the Afghan people. The first batch of aid is scheduled to arrive by charter flight on Monday, Bakhtar reported.

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Thousands of earthquake victims in need of water and food, at risk of disease

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Thousands affected by a deadly earthquake in eastern Afghanistan are in need of clean water and food and are at risk of disease, an Afghan Health Ministry official said on Sunday days after a United Nations agency warned of a cholera outbreak in the region.

At least 1,000 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in last Wednesday’s earthquake, after which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that cholera outbreaks in the aftermath are of particular and serious concern.

“The people are extremely needy for food and clean water,” Afghanistan Health Ministry spokesperson Sharafat Zaman told Reuters, adding that officials had managed medicines for now but handling those who had lost their homes would be a challenge.

“We ask the international community, humanitarian organizations to help us for food and medicine, the survivor might catch diseases because they don’t have proper houses and shelters for living,” he said.

The UN and several countries have rushed aid to the affected areas, with more due to arrive over the coming days.

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