Afghan refugee flight due to arrive in Spain
A plane carrying around 300 Afghans who worked for Spain and their families was due to arrive in Madrid from Pakistan on Wednesday, one year on from the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul.
The flight from Islamabad is expected to land at Madrid’s Torrejon de Ardoz airbase at around 9:30 pm (1930 GMT), a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares will be on hand to welcome the flight, which is part of the government’s efforts “to evacuate the staff which cooperated with the Spanish authorities in Afghanistan”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Like other Western nations, Spain in August 2021 rushed to evacuate Afghans who helped Spanish troops and diplomats, as Taliban insurgents made rapid territorial gains across Afghanistan.
Spain evacuated more than 2,000 people during the Western withdrawal as the Taliban seized power.
Most of them were Afghans at risk of reprisals from the new Taliban rulers for having worked for Spanish forces or the Spanish embassy during nearly two decades of NATO presence in Afghanistan.
But the flights had to stop once the final American troops that had been protecting Kabul’s airport left at the end of August 2021.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the time that Madrid would not “lose interest in the Afghans who had remained” in their country but wanted to leave.
Since then a handful of planes have brought Afghan citizens who had managed to cross into Pakistan to Spain.
Madrid sent some 27,000 troops to Afghanistan over almost 20 years of involvement in the conflict. A total of 102 of its soldiers died.