Afghan refugees focus of US’ top diplomat trip to Qatar, Germany

WASHINGTON DC (dpa): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans to visit Qatar and Germany next week, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with allies and to get more information about efforts to help evacuees from Afghanistan.

Both countries are temporarily housing great numbers of Afghan refugees who fled their home country after the fundamentalist Taliban took control last month in a series of offensives whose speed shocked Afghanistan and its international allies.

The reversal of fortune means the US propped up a government for 20 years only to see the Taliban once more in power. It also sta-nds accused of overseeing a chaotic withdrawal, leaving many Afghans who helped international forces behind amid fear the Taliban will lash out or kill them.

Many of the people who were airlifted out between August 16-30 are now in Qatar, where efforts are being made to figure out where they will ultimately go.

Similarly, many were also taken to the Ramstein airbase in Germany, with their ultimate destination unclear.

Ramstein is the world’s largest US air base outside of its own borders.

More than 17,000 evacuees have so far been transferred to the United States or other safe locations on a total of 78 flights, the air base said Saturday.

Some 14,300 others are currently waiting to continue their journey. More than 1,700 evacuees are expected to leave the air base within the next 12 hours, it said.

Blinken will be in Qatar on Monday and Tuesday, during which he will meet with Emir Tamim bin Ha-mad Al Thani and other off-icials. He will then travel to Germany on Wednesday, for a meeting with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“This is an opportunity to reaffirm the strong alliance between the US and Germany and our close cooperation on shared foreign policy priorities.”

Blinken will also meet with State Department employees assisting the refugees in both locations.

California requests $16.7M in aid for Afghan resettlement: California has requested $16.7 million in aid from its general funds in order to assist Afghan refugees who are resettling in the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) announced Friday the governor asked for $16.7 million from the state’s general funds in order to provide assistance to Afghan refugees who resettle in California.

California wants to offer health care, public benefits and more resources to all Afghan refugees, noting that some Afghans who aren’t Special Immigration Visa holders would be limited in aid.

Currently only Afghans refugees with children qualify for CalWORKs, the state-funded public assistance program. The state is proposing to expand its Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Program (TCVAP) so Afghan refug-ees without children can also get public assistance.

The legislature will discuss the request for funding and expansion of the program next week at its legislative session. “I am proud that California has been and always will be a place of refuge for those seeking sa-fety or a better life – especially for those who served our country, like many of the Afghan refugees coming to Ameri-ca, and to California,” said Newsom. “Today’s announcements and request for funding signal that California stands ready to assist those in need.”

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