The United States House of Representatives on Thursday approved a plan to allow an extra 8,000 special immigration visas for Afghans who helped the US and are at risk of retaliation as American troops are leaving the country.
According to a Reuters report, the bipartisan bill, which passed with a vote of 407 to 16, will now be considered by the Senate.
The plan also aims to speed up the processing of the visas, Reuters reported.
Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat who led the group that sponsored the bill, said the additional visas would cover all potentially eligible applicants in the pipeline.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that since 2008, the department has issued more than 73,000 special immigrant visas to Afghan principal applicants and their eligible family members.
“In the last fiscal year, Fiscal Year 2020, we issued nearly 8,000 special immigrant visas to principal applicants and their derivative spouses and children. So, this is a program and a form of support to the brave Afghans who have helped the U.S. Government in myriad ways over the years. That has been ongoing for over a decade now,” he said.
Reuters reports that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged last month that there were about 18,000 possible applicants.
“For too long, there has not been a sense of urgency that is necessary to ensure safety for the people who put their lives on the line to help Americans in these difficult circumstances,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, as quoted by Reuters.
This comes as Afghans who helped or worked with the US forces in the last 20 years held different rallies in Kabul and asked for protection as American troops are leaving.