Two weeks after the United States evacuated 124,000 people from Afghanistan, a leaked internal document has revealed that several old Afghan refugees have been entering the country with brides as young as 12 years old, reported Yahoo News.
The document, dated September 5, was produced by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security. Yahoo News reported that the trafficking of child bridges into the United States has been a major challenge for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban. CBP has sought ‘urgent guidance’ from other US government Departments in tackling the crisis.
“U.S. officials at intake centres in the United Arab Emirates and in Wisconsin have found many incidents in which Afghan girls have been presented to authorities as the wives of much older men…Forced or coerced ‘marriages’ are indicative of the level of desperation Afghan families are willing to consider helping loved ones escape the Taliban and qualify for evacuation to Western countries,” the leaked document emphasised.
US official, familiar with the leaked document, sheds light on the grim situation
As per a US government official, the primary concern has been the vetting process to identify potential cases of child marriages. “The concern is, we’re seeing a lot of family units with very young girls. These girls are brought into the U.S. as wives. It’s not a small number…The reality is, overseas the vetting process sucks — there’s minimal vetting. So now we have a 60-year-old guy with a 12-year-old girl saying, ‘That’s my wife’,” the official conceded.
He pointed out that marriages are not ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of the government. The official informed the administration is clueless about whether the minor girls were brought to the States as part of a rescue mission or nefarious intent. Prior to the Taliban rule, the legal age of marriage for girls under the US-backed government in Afghanistan was 16 years. However, in rural areas, incidents of child marriages below the legal age of 16 were frequent.
White House, Homeland Security defends evacuation and vetting process
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, the US government supposedly had a ‘robust and multi-layered screening and vetting process for evacuation of vulnerable Afghans. “We take allegations of forced marriage seriously. We are coordinating across the U.S. government and with domestic and international partners to detect potential cases of forced marriage or other forms of abuse, including human trafficking, among vulnerable Afghans at relocation sites and to protect any victims identified,” the spokesperson alleged.
Although the White House refused to speak about the allegations of child exploitation and trafficking, an official spokesperson was quick to defend the vetting process.“Intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals are conducting screening and security vetting for all SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans. This includes reviews of both biographic and biometric data before they are admitted into the United States.”
At this point, it remains unclear as to how many Afghan children have been subjected to rape and marriages. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, has blamed the hasty evacuation process and lack of proper screening for aggravating the situation of trafficking of minor Afghan girls.
Joe Biden admin under the scanner over human trafficking concerns
Earlier, the Associated Press had reported that there were numerous incidents where Afghan girls were presented to authorities in US as the “child brides” of old Afghan men. According to one other internal document seen by the AP, Afghan girls at a transit site in Abu Dhabi had claimed that they were forced to marry older men to escape Afghanistan who in turn raped them.
“Intake staff at Fort McCoy reported multiple cases of minor females who presented as ‘married’ to adult Afghan men, as well as polygamous families. Department of State has requested urgent guidance,” said the document that was seen by AP. Accusing the Joe Biden administration of importing an “acute human rights crisis” into the USA, Senator Ted Cruz said, “There have been multiple cases of child brides and polygamous families from Afghanistan arriving at military bases here in America as part of their botched evacuation.”