In August 2021, as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan citizens began arriving in the United States, with urgent needs for legal and social services as they sought to rebuild their lives. We launched our Afghan Asylum Project shortly after with the goal of supporting as many refugees as possible with their asylum cases and getting access to health care, food, shelter, and the other basics they would need right away.
Many of the refugees arrived without a clear legal status — some had visas or temporary humanitarian permission to enter the country, but all of them needed to apply for asylum within one year of entering the country, a daunting task on an individual level, let alone for the thousands of individuals and families arriving at one time.
And the many women and girls who fled the Taliban and feared gender-based persecution would need the assistance of immigration experts with advanced and specialized knowledge to support their claims.
Fortunately, Tahirih was founded to provide this type of representation to those who need it.
Afghan Asylum Helpline
We set up a toll-free helpline to connect Afghans seeking assistance with information, resources, and local organizations that could provide immediate support. Trauma-informed Tahirih staff began conducting legal screenings for gender-based asylum claims to determine whether our staff and pro bono network would be able to serve anyone in need.
We’ve received more than 270 calls through the helpline, including 71 from monolingual speakers of Dari or Pashto. From these calls, we’ve opened a total of 207 legal cases and 25 social services cases for clients in 41 cities across 18 states. To ensure we have enough legal expertise to meet clients’ needs, Tahirih project attorneys have been mentoring nearly 500 pro bono attorneys so they are prepared to provide assistance as well.
Know Your Rights Trainings
Beyond the helpline, Tahirih staff has also travelled to the Marine Corps Base at Quantico several times to meet with Afghan women staying there, in addition to speaking with refugees at multiple other military bases. Many of these women are either at these locations with their abusers or might be experiencing harassment and mistreatment from members of the U.S. military, so we have been working to support and protect them, as well as allay their fears and confusion about being detained on bases even though they were brought here by the military.
There have also been many Afghan women leaders — including lawyers, journalists, and politicians — who have needed support over the past year. We partnered with the U.S. Department of State, Georgetown University’s Institute for Peace and Security, Vital Voices, Mina’s List, the National Immigration Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) and the pro bono department of Crowell & Moring to provide legal screenings and legal representation to Afghan women leaders and their families.
In addition, 146 Afghan women students at the Asian University for Women (AUW) who were studying remotely in Afghanistan have also received support and referrals for services through our collaboration with AUW, Mayer Brown, American University, and at least 15 law firms as part of this effort. All of these cases have a pro bono team mentored by Tahirih staff. All the pro bono teams have filed or are in the process of filing applications for asylum and a few already have their asylum interviews scheduled. We are optimistic that their asylum cases will be granted and that the survivors will be able to remain safely in this country
It has been an eventful year for the Afghan Asylum Project, and we are grateful to the many experts, organizations, law firms, and providers who have given their time, knowledge, and efforts to give Afghan citizens the welcome and safety they deserve in the United States. We will continue to partner with law firms, our peer organizations, and the U.S. government to ensure that Afghan refugees’ needs are met and their voices are heard as they adjust – and hopefully thrive – in their new lives.