Wednesday, August 10

The 53 first evacuees from Afghanistan arrive in Spain: “We are fine”

The Air Force A400M plane in which a first group of 53 people, 5 Spaniards and 48 Afghan collaborators, was evacuated from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan this Wednesday, has landed this Thursday at dawn at the Torrejón air base (Madrid ) after leaving Dubai, where he made a stopover, late yesterday.

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All those people who flee the Asian country before the Taliban take power have been received at the foot of the trail by the Ministers of Inclusion, Migration and Social Security, and Foreign Affairs, José Luis Escrivá and José Manuel Albares, respectively. “With this arrival the first phase of the evacuation concludes,” said the latter, who stressed that “there are no more Spaniards left” in Afghanistan other than the ambassador and embassy staff. “Our goal is to bring all the Afghans who have worked with Spain in the shortest possible time,” Albares said, although he was unable to specify the total number of Afghan collaborators who will finally be rescued.

For Escrivá, it has been an “endearing moment” when the evacuees have landed, with whom both he and Albares have been able to have a small talk at the foot of the runway. In addition, he has ensured that the Government’s objective is for the evacuated Afghans to be integrated into Spain as soon as possible. After spending at most three days -72 hours- in the camp installed on the occasion of the evacuation at the Torrejón base itself, and which has a capacity to accommodate 800 people, all of them will be transferred to centers and apartments of the State, despite the fact that the minister wanted to thank the five autonomous communities -Murcia, Cantabria, Extremadura, the Basque Country and Catalonia- and the Barcelona City Council, which formally offered to welcome the newcomers.

The first six months, Escrivá said, all of them will be in reception centers and will be given training in the Spanish language and other resources to facilitate their integration. “We have spare capacity to absorb applicants and those collaborators from the European Union who are already arriving,” he remarked.

After landing, one of the women who traveled from Kabul confessed to being “well” and “relieved”. A good number of children and a few babies have also arrived. All of them, men included, appeared tired but calm from having managed to leave Afghanistan after three days of chaos and fear at the sudden takeover of the Asian country by the Taliban.

Upon arrival, the device in which the Ministry of Inclusion and Migration has also participated has carried out a PCR – in the case of testing positive, they must pass quarantine in the tents deployed at the aerodrome itself – by a team Red Cross doctor and they have been identified through official documentation, in the case of Spaniards, and provisional identity cards, for Afghan citizens, who have been given a special visa to stay in Spain . The deployment of the Government has also included a device to “give them a humanitarian reception,” according to official sources.

This first of the Spanish aircraft, an A400M of the Armed Forces, left on Tuesday night for Dubai (United Arab Emirates) from where it flew yesterday to Afghanistan to return again to the Emirati city and depart for Torrejón. On the plane was a group of eleven soldiers from the CIMIC battalion of the Land Army and the Air Deployment Support Squadron (EADA) of the Air Force, which has taken over the evacuation operation of the Spaniards and Afghans and his relatives who have collaborated with Spain for years.

According to the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, the mission of the personnel traveling on these flights is “to respond to the difficult evacuation conditions.” The A400M have capacity for about 140 occupants, but for “security reasons” in the first only 53 have traveled.

A second A400M is in Dubai to participate in the same operation, a flight that is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan this Friday. Along with these two aircraft, and as announced on Wednesday by the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez, a third medicalized aircraft of the Armed Forces will also go to Kabul, which has departed from the Torrejón de Ardoz air base, to participate in the mission of repatriation.

Inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Sánchez

Sánchez will preside this Thursday the first meeting of the ministers who are part of the Working Group set up within the Government to supervise the repatriation operation of the Spanish contingent in Afghanistan, as reported this Wednesday from Moncloa.

The Chief Executive chairs this Working Group, which is coordinated by the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory; Felix Bolaños. The rest of the members are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares; the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles; the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande Marlaska; the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration, José Luis Escrivá.

The meeting of this body, which will be by videoconference since Sánchez is in Lanzarote, “has been preceded by multiple conversations between the president and the ministers involved and several meetings at a technical level by representatives of the different departments,” as explained sources of the Presidency of the Government.

The objective is “to coordinate the return of the personnel of the Spanish Embassy in Afghanistan and of the Spaniards who remain in this country, as well as of the Afghan collaborators, with the aim of guaranteeing a safe return.”