Some Afghans trying to flee the country face exorbitant costs as Blinken touts successful efforts to help Americans – .

Some Afghans trying to flee the country face exorbitant costs as Blinken touts successful efforts to help Americans – .

There are less than 100 US citizens in Afghanistan who are ready to leave, according to the State Department, and Blinken said on Friday that there were “a few hundred” more who, for now, want to stay.

But in addition to these Americans, there are countless Afghans, including thousands who have worked for or helped the United States during nearly 20 years of war or who believe they are at risk of being targeted by the United States. Taliban, who frantically try to leave.

The heightened sense of desperation and limited space on escape routes fostered a private market with private operations requiring exorbitant amounts, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to transport people out of the country by various means. and routes, without any guarantee of success.

Operators include individuals and groups inside and outside Afghanistan, often contacted on social media.

In western Afghanistan, a family of 10 is in hiding from the Taliban. The father, a doctor, was almost beaten to death years ago by Taliban fighters for refusing to perform a punitive amputation, his son told CNN. Her mother is a women’s rights activist who worked with the United States Agency for International Development while American troops were in the country.

The 26-year-old son, who is in California, took to Facebook and found people who told him they could get the family out.

“You have to pay $ 10,000 per person to be evacuated,” the son said.

“It would be like $ 100,000 and I can’t provide $ 100,000,” he added.

CNN does not name the Afghans seeking to flee and has omitted several other details for their safety.

The Taliban have allowed a small number of evacuation flights to take off in the past two months, but they have only transported a few hundred people at a time. Thousands more Afghans want to leave, and many are turning to potentially unscrupulous operators as official efforts fail.

“There is no guarantee”

“It is getting worse because now it is normalizing and the desperation has increased,” says Hazami Barmada, an aid worker who has organized flights out of Afghanistan and says people are “absolutely making” money by exploiting this desperation.

“They increase the risk premium, and I understand why there has to be a risk premium,” Barmada added, but said the guarantees made with the high prices are impossible to count.

“There isn’t a lot of information about these people; they’re not being tracked properly, ”Barmada said. “When you hear about $ 20,000 [per person] with a guarantee, there is no guarantee. “

In Kabul, a father is in hiding with his wife and three young boys, changing locations every two weeks and asking others to drop his sons off at school so that he is not seen. He was a longtime entrepreneur, working for organizations that supported American interests, including USAID, which his boss wrote in a letter of recommendation included “putting himself in danger to protect us.”

Last week, he says, he met a man in Kabul who told him it would cost $ 50,000 to put his family on a list for an evacuation flight.

The father applied for a special immigrant visa in August, which would make him a higher priority for the United States to attempt to evacuate, but he claims the regular contact he had with Americans during the withdrawal no longer helps.

“Unfortunately, they are not doing anything at the moment,” he said. ” After [the deadline on August] On the 31st, they said that everything was closed and that it was over. We have not received anything from the United States Embassy. “

“How come we should pay to leave the country but we served the United States [contractors]? Asked the father. ” We are not allowed [to leave]? Who do they give the right to? “

Government watchdog slams state and defense departments for withholding key information about Afghanistan

A State Department spokesperson said that since August, thousands of potential SIV candidates have submitted inquiries or new requests.

“We cannot determine how many of these new applicants have the experience working with the US government necessary to qualify for SIVs until they are further along in the process,” the spokesperson said. “We are looking for ways to speed up the process while keeping security at the forefront of our minds. “

Like the young Afghan American in California, the father tried multiple paths. On LinkedIn, he spotted posts from Zachary Young, who has repeatedly announced evacuations from Afghanistan, promising this week, “we can deliver.” Young appears to have at least recently spent time in Austria, calling on an Austrian number and meeting someone in Vienna with whom CNN has spoken.

“This is how the economy works”

Asked about his prices, Young told several people on the site that a car from Kabul to Pakistan would cost $ 75,000, or $ 14,500 per person for a flight to the United Arab Emirates. To get to Albania, with refugee status, Young said, it would cost an additional $ 4,000.

” Through [person] is expensive because availability is extremely limited and demand is high, ”he told the person who shared his posts with CNN. “This is how the economy works, unfortunately. “

Young declined to speak on the phone but said in a text message that he was asking Afghans who wish to leave to have sponsors to cover them.

“If someone reaches out, we have to understand if they have a sponsor behind them to be able to pay [evacuation] the costs, ”which Young said, are“ very volatile and based on environmental realities ”.

CNN has not confirmed whether these high-fee operators were successful in evacuating everyone who paid to leave the country, as Young claims.

The Californian son says that in addition to those he spoke to on Facebook, he has tried to contact anyone he can think of, from members of Congress to foreign embassies in the United States and abroad. He says he spent $ 12,000 on legal fees to have his family apply for entry through humanitarian parole.

Meanwhile, he says, the Taliban have put a price on the heads of his family and destroyed their home.

“I sent tons of text messages asking these people, begging them to evacuate my family,” he said. ” If I [won’t] be able to evacuate them in the next two weeks, I think I’m going to lose them all. “

CNN’s Katie Bo Williams contributed to this report.


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