Up to 5K Afghans per batch allowed entry if PH grants US request

(UPDATE) SOME 1,000 to 1,500 Afghans per batch will be allowed entry to the Philippines once the government accedes to a request from the United States government to use the country as a processing site for them before they could be finally repatriated to the US.

Speaking before a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs led by Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez confirmed that the US government has indeed requested the Philippines to accommodate an undetermined number of Afghans to enter and be temporarily allowed to stay in the Philippines.

TEMPORARY SHELTER Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (third from left) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (fourth from left) talk before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing a request by the US to allow Afghans to stay temporarily in the Philippines before they are repatriated to America. Sen. Imee Marcos heads the panel that conducted the hearing on Friday, June 16, 2023. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

TEMPORARY SHELTER Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (third from left) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (fourth from left) talk before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing a request by the US to allow Afghans to stay temporarily in the Philippines before they are repatriated to America. Sen. Imee Marcos heads the panel that conducted the hearing on Friday, June 16, 2023. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

TEMPORARY SHELTER Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (third from left) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (fourth from left) talk before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing a request by the US to allow Afghans to stay temporarily in the Philippines before they are repatriated to America. Sen. Imee Marcos heads the panel that conducted the hearing on Friday, June 16, 2023. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Ambassador Romualdez also clarified that these Afghans are not refugees. He said these are former employees of the US government or they have worked for the US government while they were in Afghanistan.

Also during the hearing, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. revealed that the government is currently studying the issue, with the Department of Foreign Affairs taking the lead in the discussions.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, for his part, said concerned Philippine agencies have been meeting and possibly coming up with the recommendations on the said US request for the temporary stay of the Afghans in the Philippines.

Get the latest news

delivered to your inbox

Sign up for The Manila Times’ daily newsletters

By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

He said among the concerns being discussed are the security aspect and the duration of their stay in the country.

Manalo said that the Afghans will be issued nonimmigrant visas once we finally accede to the said request.

Manalo said that they were told that these Afghans are applying for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for their resettlement in the United States.

According to reports these Afghan translators and others who have aided US forces are facing significant danger following the withdrawal of the US military forces from Afghanistan.

To be eligible for an SIV, one must be a national of Afghanistan who has either worked directly with the US Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority as a translator or interpreter for at least 12 months (this qualifies the individual for the SI category), or has been an employee of the US government or International Security Assistance Force for at least two years between 2001 and 2021.

In addition, the candidate must obtain a favorable written recommendation from a general or flag officer in the chain of command of the US Armed Forces unit that was supported by the individual, or from the COM at the US Embassy in Kabul.

Since 2009 when these programs were created, between 16,000 and 18,000 individuals from Afghanistan have received SIVs and emigrated to the United States, along with 45,000 immediate family members accompanying those SIV recipients.

Marcos asked why the US government wanted to house Afghans in the Philippines instead of the American mainland or countries closer to Afghanistan.

“During the past year, security and espionage threats have substantially increased because of the sharp escalation in tension between the rival superpowers,” Marcos said.

The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 states that the admission of refugees for religious, political, or racial reasons should serve a humanitarian purpose and not be opposed to the public interest.

“We need to know the real nature of the agreement between the Philippines and the United States and the course of action the executive branch plans to take,” Marcos added.

Sen. Francis Tolentino favored the Philippine government’s initiative to extend temporary refuge to Afghans who have been tragically affected by war.

With a resolute commitment to human rights and international solidarity, Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, called for swift action, similar to those undertaken during the Quezon and Duterte administrations, to provide temporary refuge and support to vulnerable individuals seeking safety and stability.

The escalating crisis in Afghanistan has resulted in immense suffering, displacement and uncertainty for countless innocent civilians, Tolentino said.

He emphasized the importance of demonstrating Filipinos’ shared humanity by assisting those fleeing violence and persecution.

Tolentino noted the dire situation of Afghans affected by war has lasted for more than two decades, such that any chance to remove innocent lives from conflict and war should be pursued compassionately.

As part of the Philippines’ unwavering commitment to uphold human rights, Tolentino stressed the country’s duty to render assistance to displaced persons under international law and treaties.

He mentioned three key legal documents the Philippines has ratified and is a signatory to, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go highlighted the need to prioritize the security of Filipino citizens while also considering humanitarian considerations with regard to the United States’ request for temporary shelter for Afghan refugees in the Philippines.

Go, as a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and vice chairman of the Senate Defense Committee, refrained from providing a definitive comment at the moment, stating that it is prudent to listen to the concerns of all relevant agencies involved.

However, he stressed the importance of carefully evaluating the potential impact on national security while also being able to help other nations in need of assistance as part of the international community.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte, known for his strong stance on national security, advised President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to carefully consider and thoroughly analyze the implications before making a decision.