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Many nations wind down Afghan evacuations
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 08 - 2021

US President Joe Biden said the American evacuation mission would continue through to next week's deadline for withdrawal, while the UK and France have also vowed to continue flying people out on Friday.
Britain said its operation is in its final stages, while Paris now says its evacuations may continue beyond Friday night having previously said they would end by then. Most European operations were already being wound down before Thursday's events.
The Kabul airport atrocities have been condemned around the world, from organizations as diverse as NATO and the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Paris is to set up 'special desk' for Afghan asylum claims. A "special unique desk" will open on Monday in Paris to register asylum applications from Afghans evacuated from Kabul, said the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii), in charge of their welcome.
More than 2,500 Afghans have arrived in France under the airlift operations begun after the Taliban took power on Aug. 15. The first arrivals must leave the hotels in which they are installed from this weekend for a 10-day health quarantine and will then be able to submit an asylum request.
"A special unique desk for registering asylum requests will be set up from Monday at the Paris police headquarters," said Ofii director Didier Leschi.
Around 20 extra staff will be brought in to ensure the requests are processed smoothly.
The United Kingdom's evacuation operation in Afghanistan will end in a "matter of hours," Ben Wallace, the UK defense secretary, said Friday. That follows the closure of the UK's main processing center, the Baron Hotel, located outside Kabul airport.
The country's Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday that it had closed the processing facilities to enable it to focus efforts on evacuating the British nationals and others it had already processed who were at the airport awaiting departure.
Wallace told Sky News that, following the decision to close the processing center at 4.30 a.m. UK time, the UK will now "process" the approximately 1,000 people in the airfield.
The operation has a "matter of hours" left, Wallace said, and the "sad fact" is that "not every single one will get out."
The move comes after two bomb attacks outside the airport on Thursday, local time. Wallace stressed that the blast "did not hasten our departure."
"We closed the Baron Hotel, almost exactly on schedule. The explosion was horrendous. But it didn't hasten our departure, we were going last night," he told Sky News. In the statement Friday, Wallace said more than 13,000 people had been evacuated in 14 days.
Australia and New Zealand have both ended their evacuation flights from Kabul, as Afghanistan reels from the deadly bombing attacks.
New Zealand's final evacuation flight had landed in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday night local time, before the attacks took place. No members of the national defense force were in Kabul at the time of the attack, and no New Zealanders were left at the airport, the government said.
However, there are still New Zealand citizens in Afghanistan, who are in contact with the Foreign Ministry. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there would be no more evacuation flights from Kabul.
"We strongly condemn what is a despicable attack on many innocent families and individuals who were simply seeking safety from the incredibly difficult and fragile situation in Afghanistan," Ardern said.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton also confirmed Australia has finished the country's evacuation mission. He added on Friday that he was "grateful" for the work of Australian forces and commended their success of evacuating more than 4,000 people from Kabul.
He called the attack "horrific," and said it wasn't clear if there were any Australians caught up in the attacks, but added the country's Foreign Ministry had sent a message to all Australian citizens to steer clear of the airport.
For Australian citizens that might still be in Afghanistan, many will likely try to make their way to other borders, he said.
German troops are "all safely back from Kabul," Germany's Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a tweet Friday. Kramp-Karrenbauer is on a visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to thank the soldiers for their service, the minister said.
Germany's armed forces have used Tashkent as a staging post for evacuations from Afghanistan. "Your outstanding commitment makes us proud," she added.
Also, Albania on Friday housed its first group of Afghan evacuees who made it out of their country despite days of chaos near the Kabul airport.
A government statement said an Egyptian Almasria Universal Airlines plane landed at the Tirana international airport at 3:20 a.m. (01:20 GMT) carrying 121 people, including 11 children. Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka and US Ambassador Yuri Kim were at the airport to greet the evacuees.
After the plane landed in Tirana, the passengers were supplied with facemasks and had their information processed in a military tent before they were taken on buses to hotels in the nearby western port city of Durres. The Albanian government will supply them with food, transportation, security and other necessities, according to the foreign minister.
The government plans to allow the evacuees to stay in Albania for at least a year before they move to the United States for final settlement.
Albania may temporarily house up to 4,000 Afghans, people who would be at risk in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Xhacka said they include "pedagogues, artists, intellectuals, activists of the civil society, human rights organizations or those of women."
Kim praised the Albanian government for agreeing to host evacuees. — Agencies

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