Belgium to evacuate interpreters and rights activists from Afghanistan

Belgium to evacuate interpreters and rights activists from Afghanistan
Kabul International Airport. Credit: Belga

The evacuation operation from Afghanistan, for which the Belgian government gave the green light on Monday, will include more people than just Belgian nationals, according to Federal Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke.

Further arrangements for the rescue mission, which involves four aircraft, are being arranged by the Defence Ministry, alongside the Department for Foreign Affairs and the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Sammy Mahdi.

"We think that Belgium, just like other countries, should do its fair share in helping people who have tried to help us and the issues of human rights and women's rights in Afghanistan," Vandenbroucke told Radio 1.

He explained that as well as Belgian nationals and their relatives, the operation would also include people who have helped Belgian and international organisations in the fight against the Taliban, for women's rights, people who have worked for non-governmental organisations, and people who have worked for the United Nations.

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Vandenbroucke said he could not put a number on how many people will be helped, but that it will "be a somewhat larger group than just the Belgians. But, we think we have a responsibility for that," he added.

"It is then clear that you end up in a rather chaotic situation where you cannot have the usual formalities filled in by all people, let alone getting all the complicated procedures done correctly. There was also some difficulty to land in Kabul, that was not immediately possible," he said.

Although there had been calls in previous weeks from people in the country warning that the situation was deteriorating, Vandenbroucke said that "it was only in the last couple of days that we've had concrete signals from people saying they really want to leave."

"Even people on the ground were surprised by the very rapid advance of the Taliban," he added.

When the evacuation will take place is unclear. A press statement from the Defence Ministry is expected on Tuesday.

At the height of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan on Monday, chaos erupted at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as people desperately tried to flee on departing jets.

Images have since been shared online showing one US Air Force evacuation flight to Qatar, which departed with 640 Afghans on board. 

Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced on Twitter that European Union foreign ministers will be holding emergency talks on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

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