REPORT – A week after the Taliban entered Kabul, hundreds of Afghan refugees and demonstrators gathered in Place de la République in Paris. With a slogan: ask the French government to repatriate their families still present there, at the mercy of the insurgents.
Maëlane Loaëc –
“Long live Afghanistan, long live the Republic!” The cry goes through the crowd of several hundred Afghan refugees and demonstrators, gathered Sunday, August 22 from 2 p.m. under the statue of the Place de la République, in Paris. A bitter celebration, a week after the fall of the capital Kabul at the hands of the Taliban, at the end of a spectacular conquest of a few months. “Save the Afghans”, “Save our family” (save our family), “Evacuation Now” : on their signs, between dozens of black, red and green tricolor flags, migrants call for the repatriation of their relatives still stranded on the spot.
“I ask the French, the government to help a people who are suffering”, calls a young refugee at the microphone, who wants to remain anonymous for security reasons. Arrived in France in 2012 when he was still a minor, he now has French nationality, but is worried about his relatives still there, who have joined Iran with the fear of being quickly returned to Afghanistan. “It’s like throwing them in the mouths of the wolf again …”
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Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban
“We have no more news, we don’t know if he’s dead or alive”
When his family’s village, nestled in a mountainous province, fell into the hands of the Taliban who burned down the houses, his relatives had to flee. But not all of them were able to do it. “My 8 year old niece died in the fire, the walls collapsed on her”, he says, showing on his phone a photo of the lifeless child’s face, lined with white linens. His brother was in the Afghan army and was taken by the Taliban. “We have no more news, we don’t know if he’s dead or alive”, worries the young man, who is alarmed by“an immediate need for evacuation”.
“I sent an email to the ministry, I am calling them, but I do not have an answer, what should I do?”, calls out from the crowd to another refugee, looking lost. On his phone, he unrolls a detailed message intended for the services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by copies of the Afghan identity cards of his son, his sister, his brother and his wife, his only relatives still alive. “My mother and three of my cousins, who were Afghan generals, were shot dead by the Taliban a week ago”, in Laghmân, in the east of the country, tells the story of this Afghan who arrived in France in 2017. “Four dead in one day”, he repeats, while his brother, an American interpreter, had already been killed by the insurgents two years earlier.
Unanswered repatriation requests
He is also worried about the condition of Afghan women: his cousin, a journalist, was banned from entering his editorial office by insurgents. “The Taliban make promises in front of the cameras, but once you cut them it’s not the same reality.”, he asserts. “On Facebook, we see a lot of videos go by which show the insurgents hitting people and shooting”, adds one of his friends, whose family also lives in isolation. “In Jalalabad, they killed a woman and left her body in the street.”
A French protester also deplores many “bugs” of the telephone platform and the electronic mail of the special cell set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while she tries to obtain the repatriation of the family of her Afghan companion, in particular her little brother, who collaborated with the Afghan army. “He can be seen as a traitor by the Taliban, his life is in danger”, deplores Carolane Brugne, who says that the Taliban entered his home to tear up his business school diploma.
For now, his requests remain unanswered. “We are not even asking for financial aid reserved for refugees, all we want is to bring him back to us”, she begs. “We did everything, we do not really know what will be next, we would just like to know if he is eligible or not at the start. He risks leaving alone on foot for Iran, but Turkey is already in the process of build a wall to close its borders. “ The only solution now: go to the Quai d’Orsay, but the young woman fears that the reception will be saturated there in the morning.
France “should have anticipated more”
Many relatives are asking France to speed up its evacuation procedures. “There is a strong American, British and French military presence at Kabul airport, but it is not enough”, pin Reza Jafari, president of the association Children of Afghanistan and elsewhere. According to the messages he receives from residents on the spot, there is no collaboration between the different forces on the site, he deplores: “The French soldiers are unable to bring in refugees because the British and American soldiers are blocking the entrances to make their personnel leave first. However, we must continue to evacuate people as long as possible.”
The association manager has also sent the authorities a list of 20 Afghans who have worked with French associations, including his own, but only four of them have already been repatriated. “France knew very well what was happening there and should have anticipated the fall of the Afghan government more”, he adds.
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Beyond the lack of places on evacuation flights and the difficulties of access to the airport, where thousands of Afghans gather in the hope of leaving, some refugees also fear that they will no longer be able to send money to their relatives on the spot or to hear from them. Several of them indicate that transfers via services such as Western Union have been refused. “The country has been designated as insecure”, deplore one of them. “I’m trying to send money to my family, but the banks there are closed”, regrets another. “My relatives no longer have credit, no internet and no more resources. They no longer go out and the children no longer go to school.”
More than 600 people evacuated in one week
According to the Élysée, 625 people who worked for the French embassy in Kabul were welcomed in France between May and July 2021, employees and families included, while nearly 800 Afghan employees would also have moved to French territory between 2001 and 2014 Since the fall of Kabul on Sunday August 15, the airlift mobilized by the French army has repatriated to Paris more than 600 people on five flights, a large majority of them Afghans. A sixth plane is expected this Sunday, August 22 in the evening.
Kabul airport: the last hope of leaving Afghanistan
In an interview with Sunday Newspaper, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian declared that “all cases [d’Afghans voulant être exfiltrés] who have manifested themselves – and their number grows day by day with hundreds of names – are educated “. “We have no problems evacuating by plane these threatened Afghans who want to put themselves under the protection of France”, he said, specifying however that “our only problem is access to the airport, with the Taliban checkpoints, then entering the airport where there is chaos”.
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