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Situation of most Belgian residents in Afghanistan is unknown

15:30 16/08/2021

Belgium has repatriated all five tourists who were in Afghanistan, following a take-over of the country by the Taliban. The tourists were flown out at the weekend, as the Taliban took control of capital Kabul, overthrowing the government.

The Belgian government is aware of 34 Belgians who live in Afghanistan and have made contact with all of them to advise them to leave the country and offer assistance if needed. Belgium does not have an embassy in Afghanistan but is keeping in touch with Afghan residents through the embassy in Pakistan.

Only three families have since contacted the embassy for advice or help. “The situation on the ground there is extremely chaotic,” Wouter Poels of the federal foreign affairs department told VRT. No one was prepared for the speed at which the Taliban took control of the country.

“People who were planning to leave are now stuck in an uncertain situation,” said Poels. “We are asking all Belgians who are blocked from leaving or whose plans to leave have fallen through to contact our embassy in Pakistan. Our staff there are working around the clock to identify problems and come up with solutions.”

Until the weekend, no one had contacted the Belgian embassy for help, he confirmed. “We have been asking Belgians to leave the country for weeks now. Only this morning did we receive requests for intervention.”

Any Afghan citizens in Belgium who have been turned down for residency, meanwhile, will not be sent back to the country, confirmed migration secretary Sammy Mahdi (CD&V). It’s a turn-around from his opinion last week, which was that the EU should continue to repatriate Afghans who “did not need any particular protection”.

The situation has now deteriorated to the point that no one should be forced to return to the country, he said. “Every file we are seeing is proof that the situation in Afghanistan is terrible and that we cannot return anyone because there is no place where they will be safe.”

Photo ©Meandering Images/Shutterstock

 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw