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Biden administration extends temporary protected status for Yemenis in US

US renews protection for 1,700 Yemenis for 18-months, citing ongoing war, humanitarian crisis and Covid-19 pandemic
Immigration advocates have been calling for the creation of a legal pathway from the temporary status to permanent residency.
Immigration advocates have been calling for the creation of a legal pathway from temporary status to permanent residency (AFP)
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The administration of US President Joe Biden is extending a programme that allows people from Yemen to stay in the US temporarily without fear of deportation, saying the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis make it unsafe for them to return.

More than 2,000 Yemenis and their families will benefit from the extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Tuesday.

"Yemen continues to experience worsening humanitarian and economic conditions that prevent individuals from safely returning to their homes," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the decision.

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"Therefore, I have decided to extend and re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status. We will continue to protect and offer these individuals a place of residency temporarily in the United States."

The extension will allow about 1,700 Yemenis to renew their protected status in the US, while an additional 480 people that have been in the country since 5 July will file an initial application for the status.

They will be allowed to live and work in the US through March 2023 - an 18-month extension - though the programme does not automatically grant them a path to American citizenship.

Prior to the extension, TPS for Yemenis was due to expire in September.

TPS is granted to those who come to the US following wars, natural disasters or other events that make them unable to return to their home countries.

'Fear and uncertainty'

DHS cited the worsening humanitarian and economic conditions that prevent people from Yemen from returning to their homes, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

The death toll from the devastating six-year war is more than 233,000, with the UN warning more than 24.1 million people – around 80 percent of the population - are relying on humanitarian aid and protection to survive, while 58 percent live in extreme poverty. 

There is also widespread famine, a cholera outbreak that has raged since 2016 and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US first issued TPS to Yemenis in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama, and the protected status was extended throughout the Donald Trump administration as well.

The 18-month extension is the longest period the department can extend TPS - other periods being either six or 12 months.

The Biden administration has granted or extended the temporary status to people from several countries, including Myanmar, Haiti, Venezuela, and Syria.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell applauded the extension, saying that the expiration of TPS for Yemenis "creates fear and uncertainty".

"Today's extension and re-designation of TPS is a sigh of relief for Yemeni people in the United States, but we must continue to be vigilant in ensuring critical aid to Yemen, especially for the 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 that are on the brink of death from malnutrition, during this time of violence and suffering," Dingell said in a statement.

Many TPS holders and immigration advocates have been calling for the creation of a legal pathway from temporary status to permanent residency, which would allow individuals to have a more stable future in the US.

However, the Supreme Court ruled last month that certain immigrants with TPS cannot apply for permanent residency in the US.