Thursday, September 16

End of international evacuations leaves tens of thousands of people behind: “How can you say ‘mission accomplished’?”

The Spanish Silvia Arrastia knocked on all the doors she could until she got the documents that gave the green light to her in-laws, threatened by the Taliban, to leave Afghanistan. This Friday, his loved ones, including several minors, remained for hours in front of the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport. They shouted “Spain”, as they had been instructed, and they only found silence; They exchanged photos with personnel from the operation to try to meet, until the explosion paralyzed everything. Their names were on the evacuees list, but they stayed behind.

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“We are disappointed and very saddened,” says Arrastia, her voice breaking, on the other end of the phone. The 14 relatives of her husband, a refugee in Spain after fleeing Afghanistan due to threats from the Taliban, are among the tens of thousands of people who have not been able to leave the country in international evacuation missions, despite having collaborated with their governments or having agreed to safe conduct for humanitarian reasons.

The Spanish Government has ended the mission after having transferred 2,206 people to the Torrejón air base, among which are Afghan collaborators – and their families – from the Armed Forces and Spanish Cooperation, as well as citizens of the country linked to with Spain for other reasons or with a vulnerable profile. The figure also includes personnel who worked with the US, NATO, the EU and Portugal.

As the Defense Minister had already anticipated, the operation has ended without having removed all the Afghans included in the Government’s lists. A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that has grounded citizens who had safe-conducts issued in the last week to leave the country, although he does not want to give the figure for “security reasons.”

The desperation of hundreds of people crowded at the airport gates, together with the Taliban controls and the increase in “violence” used by them, made access to the planes more and more difficult, according to Margarita Robles. The explosion in the vicinity of the compound, which killed at least 170 people, including 13 US military personnel, precipitated the departure of Western contingents, given the risk of further explosions.

Who are left behind

Silvia’s in-laws did not want to live on the run again. After losing a child to the Taliban, they had to leave their home and became internally displaced within the borders of Afghanistan. His family was identified as collaborators of foreign governments and they spent years fleeing from one place to another, until they managed to move to Kabul, one of the safest cities in the country, but the victory of the Taliban has changed everything: “We are very worried. We don’t know what will happen now. ”

Silvia’s husband’s father, mother, siblings and nephews spent hours among the hundreds of people begging to enter the airport.

“On Wednesday afternoon, when the Taliban tightened the controls, they were already going there. They managed to pass the check pointWe do not know how and they began to wait at Abbey Gate, “says Arrastia. Since six in the morning of this Thursday, the day of the attack, his relatives were already in communication with personnel of the Spanish evacuation operation.” They were on the list. , they were in contact with them, they sent photos to each other and they were at the same door, “says the woman, with a tone of voice that shows her fatigue.” They had been four hours: ‘Spain, Spain Spain’, but only the soldiers were there Americans. They only called the Americans and did not do anything for us. ”

After four hours of waiting, a loud explosion triggered despair and ended up closing the door on this Afghan family. “They were at the door for hours and, after the attack, it was chaos. They tell us that everyone fell and everyone started to flee, stepping on each other …”, details the Spanish. They spent that night hoping that, as they had not been able to continue around the airport due to the risk of a new attack, someone would call them to tell them how to proceed. The next morning, they ran into the headline they had feared for days: ‘Spain ends evacuation from Afghanistan’.

“They have not been able and the evacuation has ended today,” Jahid (fictitious name) also tells in a brief message. Last Monday, this Afghan resident in Spain who collaborated with the Armed Forces nervously filled out the necessary documents to request a safe conduct from the Embassy to remove his father and three other relatives from Afghanistan. The paper arrived on time, but his loved ones were unable to enter the airport before the end of the Spanish evacuation mission. They were also left behind.

Jahid prefers not to tell the details of what happened, fearing that any movement will unleash reprisals against his father: “We are devastated.”

They promise other “ways”

Pedro Sánchez has assured that Spain “will seek ways” to continue evacuating collaborators and has promised that Afghanistan will not be abandoned, now that the Taliban control the country, although he has not given details about the options studied to achieve it. As he expressed in his appearance this Friday, the Government will work “without pause” and “discreetly” to repatriate the Afghan collaborators who have been left behind.

At the moment, the Embassy has not contacted the relatives of Silvia or Jahid to find another way to allow them to leave the country. “Nobody has told us anything. We have only seen in the media that the operation had been a success,” says Arrastia, who hopes that the Government will keep its word and open a new mechanism so that his family, and so many others, can leave the country: “I trust the president’s word, that they will put all the means at their disposal to activate an alternative route,” he adds.

Some countries have made estimates of the number of employees they have left in Afghanistan. UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace expressed “deep regret” that he was unable to include “between 800 and 1,100 Afghans” as well as around 100 Britons. Wallace has also spoken of another option to favor the transfer of these people to Great Britain, through what he has called the “second phase” of the operation, based on a resettlement plan for Afghan citizens that, he says, will continue ” indefinitely. ”

In other words, the British Defense Ministry proposes that, in the event that Afghan collaborators can reach other countries, the United Kingdom will be able to process their transfer from these places, reports the BBC. However, refugees do not have easy access to neighboring states to request protection, as neither Pakistan nor Iran have opened their borders to receive them, according to a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to elDiario. it is.

Pakistan is not allowing the entry of Afghan refugees without documents, a decision that Islamabad announced a day after the Taliban took Kabul on August 15, according to EFE. This Friday, at least one Afghan died and three others were injured after being shot at by Pakistani security forces as they tried to flee Afghanistan.

The French government, which has evacuated about 2,500 people, has also spoken of a future “second phase” to remove more Afghan collaborators from the country. “There will be a second phase, which we will manage with the other European countries and the international community, in particular with UNHCR. [Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados]”, which will affect” refugees who will leave Afghanistan in the future, “he said without giving further details.

Unhcr sources, which has an office in Afghanistan with about 900 employees, assure that they have not been part of the international evacuation missions. The UN Refugee Agency has insisted on requesting neighboring countries to open their borders for Afghan citizens who need to ask for protection.

The number of Afghan collaborators and family members that Germany has left in Afghanistan would reach 5,000 people, according to research published by the Afghan Personnel Sponsorship Network, a collective founded by German troops, according to Reuters posted.

“The end of the airlift must not mean the end of efforts to protect Afghan aides and help Afghans who have been left in a situation of greater emergency with the takeover of the Taliban,” Angela Merkel told the German Parliament. According to the chancellor, her government is “working intensely at all levels to find a way to protect” the Afghans who have supported its forces. Merkel cites the possibility of later carrying out a “civil operation” at Kabul airport. Secondly, a New York Times investigation estimated that, as of August 25, there were still 250,000 citizens pending to evacuate through the United States.

There are two words pronounced this Friday by Pedro Sánchez that Silvia Arrastia has received like a strong blow to the stomach: “Mission accomplished.” He has read them in a tweet from the Spanish president after confirming that, after days of paperwork and waiting in front of the airport, his in-laws, threatened by the Taliban, were unable to access the evacuation zone: “How can you say mission accomplished? How can you say that it has been ‘a success’ if you have left people hanging? I do not know how you can speak that. It is disrespecting the people who have stayed there and the people who have given their lives there, “she says hurt. .

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