The first Belgian planes are expected to evacuate people from Kabul International airport, where four timeslots have been reserved, on Friday.
Around 580 people have registered with the Belgian embassy to be evacuated from Afghanistan, of which 344 are Belgian and 222 are of Afghan origin with family ties or protection status. The remaining passengers are Dutch and Luxembourg nationals and have family ties, according to De Standaard.
“Belgium Defence C-130 planes will evacuate the first people from Kabul airport to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Several trips are planned,” Federal defence minister Ludivine Dedonder said on Twitter on Friday morning.
— Ludivine Dedonder (@DedonderLudivin) August 20, 2021
Foreign Affairs minister Sophie Wilmès added that “all those who are scheduled to be evacuated have been invited to go to the airport where our team on the ground will welcome the passengers, screen them and escort them to the plane.”
The first C-130 plane left several hours ago with a technical support team, administrative and security staff who will help set up a designated area in the airport for the Belgian operation.
The embassy in Islamabad has a list of names of people who will be repatriated, whilst an identification team will monitor who embarks on the plane.
An e-mail seen by De Standaard sent to the evacuees included instructions about luggage, stating that only hand luggage per person will be permitted onto the flight, adding that pets are not allowed.
Reports on the ground tell of multiple Taliban checkpoints on the route to the airport from Kabul city, which makes it difficult for those being evacuated to reach the airport.
Although four aircraft are being used for the operation – including an Airbus A400M and a Falcon 7-X – only the C130s will make the journey between Kabul and Islamabad with each capable of transporting between 50 and 70 passengers.
From Islamabad, the Airbus A400M will bring people to Belgium, reportedly to the military airport in Melsbroek. However, it is unclear whether multiple flights will be necessary.
On Thursday, it was announced that 16 Belgians have already been evacuated from Afghanistan by Dutch security services on a transport plane heading to the Georgian capital Tbilisi, whilst France was also able to evacuate one Belgian national from Kabul.
Meanwhile, Afghan refugees in Belgium are still having their asylum applications rejected on the grounds that the situation in their country is safe, despite the takeover by the Taliban.
Following the months-long takeover of territory in Afghanistan, the Taliban – a movement that promised to restore peace and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power – has wrested control of the country.
The hardline Islamist group had previously tried to reassure Afghans since seizing power that there would be “no revenge” for people who worked against the group and aided the work of allies.
However, a confidential document by the UN-Collaborating Rapid Response Center on Environment, Development, Peace and Security (RHIPTO) Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses warned that the group had compiled a blacklist of “collaborators” that they were now targetting.
“There are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear,” Christian Nellemann, who lead the group behind the report, told the BBC.