Thirteen Dutch evacuated from Afghanistan
A plane with thirteen Dutch nationals on board took off from Kabul in Afghanistan on Thursday and arrived in the Qatari capital of Doha early in the evening. From there they will continue their journey to the Netherlands.
The thirteen are some of the Dutch people who could and wanted to be evacuated, the rest couldn't make it in time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported. Ambassador Marjan Kamstra spoke with some of them about the trip. "Our team has been working non-stop, including at night, for the past few days to facilitate this departure with the Qatari authorities," Kamstra said. "It touched me to notice how relieved the Dutch people are that they were brought to safety. At the same time, knowing that we still want to help so many people leave Afghanistan feels like an enormous responsibility. My team is already fully engaged in that.
The Dutch people will be tested for the coronavirus before they can travel further. If they test negative, the embassy will help them to continue their journey to the Netherlands via scheduled flights. The Ministry cannot make any announcements about that travel schedule for reasons of privacy.
Earlier in the evening, the ambassador visited the crisis center of the Qatari government from where the departure of the Dutch people was coordinated. On behalf of Minister Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Affairs), she expressed her thanks for the successful mission.
25 Dutch people in Afghanistan indicated that they do not want to leave at the moment, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are waiting for other options to leave. The Ministry is staying in contact with them.
There were 113 people on board the plane, mostly Afghans with dual nationality, including American, Ukrainian, Canadian or German. Thirteen Britons were also on the flight. It was the first flight that allowed a large group of civilians to depart since the end of last month's chaotic evacuation. Then Western countries withdrew over 120,000 people from the Afghan capital, which had fallen into the hands of the extremist Taliban.
The flight involved time constraints, security risks, uncertainties, and passage through Taliban checkpoints. "I am very happy that we were able to bring these Dutch people to safety," Kaag said in a statement. "We are very grateful to the Qatari authorities for making this exercise possible. At the same time, there are still many people in Afghanistan who want to leave. The Netherlands continues to make efforts to help them too."
The Netherlands could only allow people with a Dutch passport onto this first commercial flight from Kabul since the Taliban took power last month. "Unfortunately, at the moment it was not possible to help people with a Dutch residence permit or Afghans who are on a Dutch list to leave Afghanistan in this way. The Netherlands, together with international partners, is working hard to assist these people and bring them to safety," the department said.
The Qatar Airways plane arrived in Kabul earlier on Thursday with relief supplies. Qatar has good ties with the Taliban and played a prominent role in reopening the airport. The Qatari Afghanistan envoy said another flight is scheduled for Friday. "Hopefully life will return to normal in Afghanistan," said Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani.
Reporting by ANP