US Congressmen urge Pompeo to facilitate 'safe' relocation of Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan

By Reena Bhardwaj

Washington [US], May 9 (ANI): Expressing concerns over the safety and security of religious minorities in Afghanistan, twenty-six US Congressmen have urged Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to take all available steps to facilitate the "safe and expeditious relocation" of members of the Sikh and Hindu communities trapped in the war-hit country.

In the letter dated May 4, Congressman John Garamendi, co-chair of Sikh Caucus, and twenty-five others stated that the Sikh community continues to be under "grave" threat from Islamic State terrorist attacks directed at Sikhs.

"We write to express our deep concern about the safety of the vulnerable Sikh religious minority in Afghanistan, which continues to be under grave threat from Islamic State terrorist attacks directed at Sikhs... Once a thriving community of nearly 250,000 people, the Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan has endured years of discrimination and violence from extremists, and the community is now estimated to comprise fewer than 100 families across the country," the letter read.

"As such, we urge you (Pompeo) to take all available steps to facilitate the safe and expeditious relocation of members of the Sikh and Hindu religious minorities in Afghanistan," the letter read.

The congressmen suggested Pompeo to consider referring people from religious minorities in Afghanistan to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) through Priority 1 embassy referrals.

"We understand that such referrals to the USRAP are generally used in small numbers andsituations of extreme danger, but we believe this situation is extremely grave and urgeyou to expand the use of this measure to save Afghan Sikhs and Hindus," the letter stated.

The congressmen also recommended Pompeo to engage the other member countries in the International Religious Freedom Alliance to secure their support and involvement in helping to protect and safely relocate this vulnerable religious minority community from Afghanistan.

The congressmen said that they understand the travel restrictions due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and how the pandemic has led to the temporary suspension of admissions for most refugees. However, the congressmen said that they continue to raise the flag since the situation is 'urgent' for Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

Harpreet Singh, Executive Director of the American Sikh Caucus Committee, and Pritpal Singh coordinator, American Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC), in a joint statement, hailed the congressmen for taking up the issue and much of the community is now seeking relocation outside of Afghanistan for their safety. (ANI)