The Spanish government has offered itself to be the European Union’s hub to take in Afghan refungees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
The first arrivals have been flown in to Torrejón de Ardoz airbase, outside Madrid which is being used a the principle hub to process those who have been offered refuge in other EU countries as part of the block’s External Action Service.
The European Commission leaders arrived at the base yesterday, Sunday 22nd August, to greet 110 Afghan evacuees and their families who landed on a Spanish Air Force A400M transport aircraft. The flight included 36 people who had worked for the US embassy in Afghanistan.
The remainder of the arrivals had worked with the Spanish embassy in Kabul.
Since the Spanish operation began last week, 445 Afghans and five Spaniards have been flown out of Kabul Airport.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, accompanied by Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez held a brief welcoming ceremony on Sunday and met some of the new arrivals.
Ursula Von der Leyen said that it was ” our moral responsibility, and not only to help the Afghans arriving here in Spain, but also those who have remained in Afghanistan”.
Sh later tweeted that she was grateful to Spain ‘for having taken the initiative to coordinate the reception of incoming Afghan EU Delegation staff and their families and for setting up this reception hub’.
She said she was ‘moved by the outstanding commitment and extraordinary strength we have witnessed today at the reception hub in Torrejón, Madrid. It is our moral responsibility to help those who arrive in Spain, and those who remained in Afghanistan.’
Moved by the outstanding commitment and extraordinary strength we have witnessed today at the reception hub in Torrejón, Madrid.
It is our moral responsibility to help those who arrive in Spain, and those who remained in Afghanistan.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) August 21, 2021
Speaking at the airbase ceremony, Charles Michel, thanked Sanchez for his leadership saying: ” Your decision to take this initiative immediately is a signal of dignity, of European dignity. This political project, the European Union, is based on fundamental principles and values: unity, solidarity, human rights. That is why it was so important to demonstrate our clear solidarity to those people in Afghanistan who helped us and the member states to promote our values, to defend our interests during the last years”.
In addition the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, spoke by phone to US President, Joe Biden, for 25 minutes over the weekend in which he offered to provide further logistical support in the US evacuation.
According to a Spanish government press release, the two leaders agreed ” the use of the bases of Morón and Rota to host Afghans who worked with the US while in transit to other countries,’ the Spanish government said in a statement on Sunday. Both leaders agreed ‘on the need for the international community to act in a co-ordinated and supportive manner, especially to facilitate evacuation and repatriation operations’.
Pedro Sanchez later tweeted : ‘I have just had a meaningful conversation with President Joe Biden, in which we have addressed several topics of common interest, particularly the situation in Afghanistan and the collaboration between our both governments in the evacuation of citizens from that country.’