Spain starts evacuating Afghan employees via Pakistan

AFP - [email protected]
Spain starts evacuating Afghan employees via Pakistan
A group of Afghan nationals stand on the tarmac after disembarking from the last Spanish evacuation flight, at the Torrejon de Ardoz air base, 30 km from Madrid, on August 27, 2021. - Spain announced the end of its Kabul evacuations today after a nine-day operation that saw more than 2,200 people flown out of the strife-torn country following the Taliban takeover. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was at the Torrejon de Ardoz airbase near Madrid when the last plane with evacuees from Afghanistan, including Afghan passangers, Spain's ambassador to Afghanistan and 82 Spanish soldiers, landed today evening on a flight from Dubai, ending an airlift that began on August 18. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Spain was on Monday evacuating via Pakistan Afghan helpers left behind when western forces quit Kabul, a government source confirmed on condition of anonymity.


The government source declined to give any details of the move, citing security concerns.

But Spanish media, including daily El País and National Radio, reported that Madrid would bring close to 250 Afghan citizens, who had already crossed into Pakistan and would be flown out on military transport planes.

The first flight was expected to arrive on Monday evening.

Spain's evacuations have been weeks in the making, with Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares visiting Pakistan and Qatar in early September to lay the groundwork.

Madrid evacuated over 2,000 people, most of them Afghans who had worked for Spain and their families, during the western withdrawal as the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August.


But the flights had to stop once the final American troops that had been protecting the Afghan capital's airport left.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in August that Spain would not "lose interest in the Afghans who had remained" in their country but wanted to leave.

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on Friday urged the bloc's member states to host a "minimum" of between 10,000 and 20,000 more Afghan refugees.

"To welcome them, we have to evacuate them, and we're getting down to it, but it's not easy," he said in Madrid.

The EU has said a demand by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to take in 42,500 Afghan refugees over five years can be achieved -- although any decision lies with member states.


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