Afghan crisis: Chaos as Europeans scramble to evacuate Kabulon August 18, 2021 at 12:31 pm

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Several countries rush to fly people out, as the Dutch government is criticised for reacting slowly.

Soldiers help a women, fell due to high temperature at the Kabul International Airport

image sourceGetty Images

Chaotic conditions have been reported outside Kabul airport as European governments rush to bring home their citizens as well as Afghan colleagues.

French, Dutch, German and Czech planes have all left Kabul in recent hours.

Staff at the Dutch embassy were so taken by surprise by the Taliban arrival on Sunday they did not tell Afghan colleagues they were going.

Shots were reported outside the airport on Wednesday, as crowds waited to get in.

Local reports said several people were wounded near the north gate and the Taliban were preventing people from getting to the airport.

While each European government is trying to airlift its own nationals as well as Afghan support staff, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said “we cannot abandon [Afghan colleagues] and we are doing everything we can to offer them shelter in the EU”.

France has revealed it has flown to safety 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans “in need of protection”. On board the flight to Abu Dhabi were four Dutch nationals, an Irish citizen and two Kenyans.

While France is using Abu Dhabi as an air bridge, Germany is using Uzbekistan for its operations. A second flight was heading to Tashkent on Wednesday after an initial plane arrived in Frankfurt on Tuesday evening.

A woman weeps as she arrives among the first German and Afghan evacuees from Kabul, at Frankfurt International Airport

image sourceGetty Images

A Czech plane landed in Prague carrying 87 people including Ambassador Jiri Baloun and dozens of Afghans who had helped Czech officials.

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said two planes carrying its citizens had left Kabul on Wednesday morning.

However, there was an outcry in the Netherlands when it emerged that Dutch embassy staff had fled the Taliban arrival in Kabul without telling their Afghan colleagues.

There was also criticism in Sweden that Swedish embassy staff had been airlifted out while Afghan staff and interpreters were left behind.

A Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman told the BBC that embassy staff were “woken up by the US military and were asked to leave for the airport urgently so they had no time at all to warn local staff”.

The Dutch caretaker government said it was doing all it could to evacuate people from Kabul, but an initial airlift from Kabul airport late on Tuesday had only 30 minutes on the ground and took off with 40 people, who were neither Dutch nor Afghan.

“It’s awful. Many were there at the gates of the airport with their families,” said Ms Kaag.

Two flights did leave the airport on Wednesday morning carrying Dutch nationals, but they would not have included interpreters or their families. Ms Kaag told parliament that in common with other Western leaders they had been surprised by the speed of the Taliban takeover.

The head of the AFMP defence union, Anne-Marie Snels, accused ministers of ignoring warnings of the likely risks to interpreters once the Taliban took control.

“Blunder piled up on blunder, bureaucracy all over the place. The interpreters had to meet all kinds of unrealistic demands,” she complained. “This is going to be the next black page in our history,” she told Algemeen Dagblad.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was among a number of European leaders to warn of an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, suggesting between 300,000 and five million people could head to Europe.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Wednesday that “the aim must be to keep the bulk of people in the region”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire from opponents for saying Europe should put together a “robust initiative to thwart illegal migration”. He accused critics of twisting his comments and said “France does and will continue to do its duty to protect those who are in the most danger”.

The EU’s foreign policy chief said there was now a need to ensure that the Taliban takeover did not prompt large-scale migration towards Europe and that transit countries would need support.

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