On the runway of the military airport of Torrejon de Ardoz, in the suburbs of Madrid, a father and his daughter embrace, in tears, on the evening of October 11. Osman (all names of the refugees have been changed at their request), a 53-year-old Afghan translator, who worked for foreign media, especially in Spain, before taking up a post as director of a World Bank program, has reunited with her daughter, after two months of separation and the fear that it will be final. Somaia, 19, and her husband, Ahmal, 32, were then among the eighty-four Afghan refugees transported from Islamabad, Pakistan, by the Spanish army on board an A400M military plane, during the a late evacuation operation, unique in Europe. The next day, October 12, 150 other Afghan collaborators and their families followed. And Madrid’s intention is to continue, having recourse, if necessary, to other transit countries.
After the end of the major evacuations in August, hastily organized by many countries during the Taliban seizure of power, Spain was an exception by organizing, in October, convoys to evacuate, again, dozens of Afghans to the Pakistani border. Officials from the diplomatic corps and buses were waiting for them there to reach Islamabad, then, from there, Madrid. A real challenge, which aimed to honor Madrid’s promise to “Do not abandon anyone” among the Afghans who have collaborated, at one time or another in their life, with Spain.
“Even if the practical difficulties are significant, especially since we no longer have staff in the field, our commitment to our former Afghan collaborators and their families is firm., explains the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares. We cannot abandon people who have collaborated with us for twenty years, with the danger that this implies for their lives. Spain (…) must do everything to be able to continue looking in the mirror without blushing. “
Negotiations with Qatar and Iran
In August, the airlift set up between Torrejon and Kabul airport had already evacuated more than 2,000 people and made Spain a “hub” for the transfer of staff from the Union’s external services. European. This prompted Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to say that “Spain is an example of the soul of Europe”.
Madrid did not want to stop there. From September 10, Minister Albares went to Islamabad to“Try to find safe ways” for evacuation operations. Then in Qatar. And again in New York, where he met his Iranian counterpart. “These three countries gave me their support and from then on we considered different options, insists the minister. Everything that the Pakistani authorities had guaranteed to me was respected, whether to allow the landing and take-off of planes, to facilitate the crossing of the border with Afghanistan thanks to safe-conducts, or to ensure the safety of our employees and their families while crossing Afghanistan. “
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Madrid continues its evacuations from Afghanistan