Flight carrying 84 Afghans lands in Madrid after being evacuated via Pakistan
MADRID: A flight carrying 84 Afghans – people who worked for the Spanish forces and their families – arrived in Madrid, after being evacuated via Pakistan.
The military plane landed on Monday at the Torrejon de Ardoz airbase near Madrid at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) on schedule, a government statement said.
The defence, foreign and migration ministers were at the airport to meet them.
The 84 passengers comprised 14 people who had worked for the Spanish force in Afghanistan and their families, TVE television reported.
The broadcaster showed images of men, women and children coming off the flight.
A defence ministry tweet showed footage of what it said was the emotional reunion between a father who arrived in Madrid in August and his daughter.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares thanked Pakistan for its cooperation in the evacuation operation, in a statement on Twitter.
Spanish media, including the El Pais newspaper and National Radio, have reported that Madrid would bring close to 250 Afghan citizens, who entered Pakistan in advance and would be flown out on military transport planes.
A second flight with the rest of the evacuees is expected Tuesday.
Spain’s evacuations have been weeks in the making, with Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares visiting Pakistan and Qatar in early September to lay the groundwork.
Madrid evacuated more than 2,000 people, most of them Afghans who had worked for Spain and their families, during the western withdrawal as the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August.
But the flights had to stop once the final American troops that had been protecting the Afghan capital’s airport left.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in August that Spain would not “lose interest in the Afghans who had remained” in their country but wanted to leave.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on Friday urged the bloc’s member states to host a “minimum” of between 10,000 and 20,000 more Afghan refugees.
“To welcome them, we have to evacuate them, and we’re getting down to it, but it’s not easy,” he said in Madrid.
The EU has said a demand by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to take in 42,500 Afghan refugees over five years can be achieved – although any decision lies with member states
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