More than 1,400 Afghan children have been taken out of the war-torn country and flown to the US without their parents since August – and hundreds remain in government custody without family to claim them, according to a new report.
Since the US completed its chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, thousands of Afghan allies and hundreds of Americans have been relocated out of Taliban-controlled territory. However, CNN reports that many children were separated from their families in the chaos or lost their parents in an Aug. 26 suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport.
According to numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement obtained by the outlet, 1,450 children have been brought to the US without their parents or guardians. Many were released to live with sponsors, such as family members they traveled with or relatives already in the US.
Around 250, however, are still in government custody and many of them have no family in America, according to the report. It is unclear how many of the 1,450 have been reunited with their parents or have parents who are still in Afghanistan.
According to CNN, some children and minors have reportedly been able to stay connected with their families in Afghanistan through the messaging service Whatsapp, but many remain in the dark.
Some children also had their names and birth dates recorded incorrectly on the official documents issued to them as they were evacuated from Afghanistan – making it even more difficult for officials to reunite them with their parents and family members.
The process for reuniting parents stuck in Afghanistan or other countries with their children in the US is unclear, advocates told CNN.
Jennifer Podkul, vice president of policy and advocacy for Kids in Need of Defense, said the matter of who was in charge of coordinating such an effort is a “huge question.”
Ashley Huebner, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, accused the Office of Refugee Resettlement of not moving fast enough to effect reunions.
“There’s a lot of frustration … with the lack of information, the lack of movement, just the real lack of urgency that we’re feeling from the Office of Refugee Resettlement and others about what is going to happen to these children, and why things are taking so long,” she told CNN.
While in Germany in September, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with a group of unaccompanied Afghan children and teens. He reportedly told them that the US is “going to be trying to help people who are still in Afghanistan, your families, your friends,” according to National Public Radio.
The State Department and HHS did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on the report.