US court ruled in favour of Afghans and Iraqis, calling visa delays unlawful

A federal judge in the United States of America has ruled that the delay in processing visa applications for hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans who assisted the US in its war efforts in the two countries is unlawful.

Under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), Afghans and Iraqis who served in the US military, can apply to move legally to the US. However, some of the applicants have been waiting for years in dangerous conditions while their applications are being processed. Many of them worked as translators or interpreters for the US military during the war. 

During the court case, Afghan and Iraqi Allies v. Pompeo, the judge said, “The fact that the adjudication process is a complex one does not excuse delays of such magnitude, because Congress explicitly referenced that complexity in the nine-month provision.” She added that the US government had offered no convincing justification for why it had ignored the 2013 law, which mandated that SIV applicants “should receive a decision within nine months of submitting their application.”

The plaintiffs were represented by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), a New York-based group that offers direct legal assistance to refugees and displaced persons, and law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP.

The plaintiffs submitted their applications in 2013, 2014 and 2016, but did not hear back by the time they filed the lawsuit on 12 June 2018. “These applicants can reasonably expect to spend more than four years waiting in the SIV application process before they are ever issued a visa,” said IRAP.

“This ruling could finally bring relief to these men and women and their families who have been waiting in fear for far too long,” said Deepa Alagesan, a lawyer at IRAP. “They served bravely in support of our missions abroad, and we promised them a pathway to safety in return. This ruling ensures that we keep our promise.”

TMP – 30/09/2019

Photo credit: Tristan Ruark / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Baghlan, Afghanistan, Mar 20, 2011: An Afghan interpreter speaking to Afghan soldiers.