Flight with 80 Afghans evacuated via Pakistan arrives in Spain

The President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez (center), and the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, applaud police, soldiers and diplomats who were in Afghanistan, on the arrival of the flight that repatriated them, on August 27, 2021, in Madrid – AFP/Archives

A plane carrying around 80 Afghan refugees, including collaborators who worked for the Spanish authorities and their families, evacuated via Pakistan, arrived in Spain on Monday night (11), the Spanish government and the public broadcaster TVE reported.

The military aircraft landed at Torrejón de Ardoz air base, in Madrid, around 9:00 pm local time (4:00 pm in Brasília), according to the images shown by TVE.

The ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Migration attended the airport to receive the plane coming from Islamabad, Pakistan, as the Spanish government said in a statement.

A government source who requested anonymity had earlier confirmed to AFP the operation to bring Afghans who had worked for the European country to Spain, via Pakistan, without offering further details, citing “security reasons”.

According to various Spanish media, including the newspaper El País and a public radio, there are around 250 Afghan citizens in total who would have crossed the border into Pakistan, from where they will be transported to Madrid in two military planes.

The first brought about 80 people, including 14 Afghan employees and their families, according to TVE, which showed images of men, women and children disembarking from the aircraft with some belongings.

The second plane with the missing people should arrive in the Spanish capital this Tuesday (12).

This operation had been prepared for a long time by the Spanish government. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares traveled to Pakistan and Qatar in September to discuss the matter.

Like other Western countries, Spain implemented an airlift in late August to remove hundreds of people from Afghanistan, where the Taliban took power. These evacuations were interrupted with the departure of the last American soldiers controlling the airport in Kabul.

In total, Spain managed to evacuate 2,206 people from Kabul, the vast majority Afghans, of which 1,671 were collaborators who worked for Spain, who left the country with their families.

Spanish government president Pedro Sánchez said in late August that Spain would not abandon Afghans who were unable to leave.

European Union diplomacy official Josep Borrell urged member states on Friday to take in at least 10,000 to 20,000 additional Afghan refugees.

“But to receive them, you have to get them out, and that’s what we’re also doing, and it’s not that easy,” Borrell said at a forum in Madrid.

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