Efforts to resettle thousands of Afghan refugees in the United States have met new challenges as evacuation flights out of two American processing facilities abroad have been stopped.
The pause on flights, instituted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was based on “health safety concerns,” according to an agency document reviewed by The Associated Press. According to the news outlet, the decision followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to halt evacuation flights.
The AP also reported that U.S. officials say the pause will “have a severe impact on the evacuation operation.” The processing centers are located at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and another base in Qatar.
“The halting of the flights is a problem for the United States in part because many of the evacuees already have been at the Ramstein military base longer than the 10-day limit Germany set in allowing the U.S. to use the country as a transit site,” the AP noted.
During and following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August, these bases were just two of the staging areas used to process refugees for resettlement. Many of the refugees are expected to be moved to various locations around the U.S.
The AP report noted that there were about 10,000 refugees at Ramstein awaiting resettlement and that officials said the pause would have an “adverse effect” on them. The reasons for the CDC’s “health and safety concerns” were not given.
As detailed by The Daily Wire on Wednesday, there has already been a swell of Afghan refugees into the Northern Virginia area. The influx has reportedly caused an increase of patients at local hospitals, resulting in some native-born Americans being denied admission.
“A hospital near the Dulles Expo Center that federal officials designated as a go-to spot for medical treatment began running out of available beds, forcing the hospital to turn away non-Afghan patients who weren’t in need of critical care,” The Washington Post reported.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released a statement on the matter saying that he “will continue to do everything he can to ensure that Virginia’s hospitals — many of which are already strained with covid-19 patients — have the resources they need to care for our communities.”
Other processing centers are also dealing with refugee health issues. For example, Fort McCoy Army Base in Wisconsin has seen more than two dozen coronavirus infections and at least one case of measles among Afghan refugees transported there.
“Since the identification of the case, no other guests have been diagnosed with measles,” said Cheryl Phillips, a spokeswoman for the task force overseeing refugees at the fort. “The rapid response at Fort McCoy reflects careful preparation and strong interagency collaboration aimed at meeting the needs of our guests, including the management of infectious disease.”
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that as of Thursday, refugees were still being sent to Fort McCoy for processing, but no new updates about the number of refugees at the fort would be given.