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Repatriation of Afghan allies from France: “Everything is played at the airport checkpoint”

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Many Afghan Civilian Locally Recruited Personnel (PCRLs) who worked for France are still in Afghanistan. Blocked at the gates of Kabul airport, while Paris must soon cease its evacuations, their future is more than uncertain. Lighting with Antoine Ory, the lawyer for several Afghan interpreters.

In the aftermath of the deadly attack that caused chaos at Kabul airport on Thursday August 26, former Afghan employees in the service of France are desperate for an exfiltration by August 31, the deadline for the departure of American troops.

“The situation is complicated. Many have been able to have functional protection allowing them to obtain a visa to come to France, but now, the subject is no longer to have a visa or protection, it is to be able to access airport, ”explains Antoine Ory, lawyer for several former Afghan interpreters and auxiliaries to the French army, contacted by France 24.

A convoy of twenty buses were at the gates of the airport on Thursday afternoon, with on board, according to Emmanuel Macron, who spoke yesterday at a press conference from Ireland, ” binational nationals and several Afghans in danger whom we wish to be able to repatriate “.

>> Read also on Les Observateurs de France 24: The testimony of a former Afghan interpreter of the French army

Civilian local recruiting personnel (PCRLs), mostly interpreters who worked with the French army, are considered by the Taliban to be traitors who must be executed. “Since the Taliban arrived, I have remained in hiding at home. […] I don’t know what will happen to us here in Afghanistan. I am married, I have four children, I am worried for myself, but also for my family. Our work was not secret, people will tell the Taliban that I worked for the army, everyone knows that, ” France 24 observers one of them, who worked for the French army for seven years as an interpreter.

But there is an emergency: the Americans have pledged to leave Afghanistan on August 31 and have forced the French, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex, to stop evacuations after August 27. “It can perhaps go beyond this evening, but we must remain cautious on this subject”, however indicated Friday morning the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, on Europe 1.

“Luck plays an important role in their destiny”

A total of 1,067 PCRLs, including 538 interpreters, have worked for France in Afghanistan since 2001, according to a parliamentary report published in April 2021. Among them, “222 ex-PCRL and their families, that is to say nearly 800 people”, according to the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, were evacuated from 2012. The others, however, saw their asylum applications rejected in recent years. years or, for lack of information, have simply not done so.

“There was a political will not to repatriate them, regrets Me Ory. The Quai d’Orsay was in absolute bad faith and did not want to recognize that they were in a situation of danger. Then there was a turnaround after Emmanuel Macron’s statements on August 16. “

In the aftermath of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the President of the Republic said that day that “our duty and our dignity” was “to protect” the Afghans who helped France and now threatened by the Taliban, who ‘they are “interpreters, drivers or cooks”.

>> To see on France 24: Afghanistan: women are the big losers in this “cruel” evacuation

Since then, a little more than twenty PCRLs have been able to leave Afghanistan. But they are still at least 150 to hope to be evacuated, according to the Association of Afghan Interpreters and Auxiliaries of the French Army, which includes Antoine Ory.

The latter admits having “no information on the rest of the operations”. “Everything is played out at the checkpoint at the airport which is co-managed by the Taliban and the Americans,” he said. Sometimes some Afghans with whom I am in contact manage to be exfiltrated by French soldiers. Others wait several days for nothing. Luck plays an important role in their destiny. “

France has “operational contacts” with the Taliban

Thursday’s double attack claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State further complicated an already complex situation. The airport gate has been closed since yesterday.

Perhaps the salvation of the PCRLs will come from a diplomatic agreement. The French Foreign Ministry said on Friday that France has “operational contacts” with the Taliban in order to facilitate evacuation operations at Kabul airport.

>> See also on France 24: Attacks at Kabul airport: how to continue to evacuate despite the risks?

More than a hundred French people and more than 2,500 Afghans have joined France since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15.

A thirteenth French flight, carrying 260 people, including eight French and 252 Afghans, arrived Friday morning at Roissy international airport, near Paris, from Abu Dhabi, the hub of the French airlift between Kabul and Paris, the government said. A fourteenth flight is expected at the end of the evening with nearly 200 people on board.

“The terrorist attack must not prevent these operations […]. We will continue until the last possible second, “Clément Beaune said on Friday morning.” Does that mean that all the people who have worked in Afghanistan for allies, for Europeans will be able to leave the airport? Probably not, “he conceded, however.

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