“Espana! Espana! Vamos! The cries were heard at the Afghan airport in Kabul as the last military plane carrying evacuees left for Spain. Thousands of people tried to flee the country after the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan earlier this month.
Spain has been evacuating its nationals and local contractors from the country since last week. Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the country would try to save as many as possible, including those with links to other countries in the European Union.
“Until the last moment, we will try to accommodate as many people as possible, especially those who are in danger,” he said. “We will give our all and coordinate with the EU and the rest of our partners, like the United States.”
Following conversations between US President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez over the weekend, Spain offered to use its Torrejon de Ardoz air base just outside Madrid to receive flights from Afghanistan.
The base is one of three used in Spain to facilitate evacuation attempts for as many as possible while US forces still control Kabul airport.
Time is running out, however, as the Taliban have demanded that all foreign troops leave by August 31.
Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska speaks with Afghan citizens at Torrejon Air Base outside Madrid, Spain. / Javier Barbancho / Reuters
So far, nearly 1,500 people have been evacuated to Spain thanks to military personnel based in Torrejón and assisted by NGOs such as the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance.
The association’s national coordinator, Aliva Diez Martinez, told CGTN Europe that addressing the mental health of evacuees was also a high priority.
“Refugees arriving here in Torrejon will be integrated into the national refugee reception system. It will happen within 12 to 48 hours, ”she said. “From there, we will start working to integrate them into the education and health systems.
“We will also offer them legal assistance and access to psychologists. We also offer support through social workers to help these families in need. Our plan is to work with them until they become fully independent, ”she added.
Torrejon will continue to serve as a temporary detention site from which evacuees can wait to enter Spain and other European countries, some also going to the United States. Their future, like that of their country, remains uncertain.
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