Left behind in Afghanistan hopelessly trapped fleeing is dangerous and very expensive
About 30 interpreters who worked for the Dutch government could not be evacuated, said Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld. An estimated 250 Afghans with a Dutch passport are also detained in Afghanistan. “I know a lot of people who were still on a list to come back to the Netherlands, but who are now stuck in Kabul,” says 23-year-old Rasul.
Instead of going on vacation, he decided to go to Afghanistan to accompany his family. He has been back in the Netherlands for a week. “I have many relatives who are entitled to evacuation. My sisters-in-law are married to Dutch people, my cousin has worked for the Dutch government. He and many others are seen as traitors there.”
Border crossings in Taliban hands
If the US also stops evacuation flights in a few days, it will be very difficult to escape from Afghanistan. There are no more commercial flights and all border crossings are in the hands of the Taliban. They only allow a small number of people with the right papers through.
The British newspaper The Guardian writes that 100,000 people stand daily at Spin Boldak, one of the border crossings with Pakistan. Pakistanis are still allowed through here and there is also said to be trade. According to the Pakistani authorities, a total of 15,000 to 20,000 people have crossed the border in recent days. The BBC also reports that some 1,500 people have gone to Uzbekistan and that several hundred Afghans have crossed the border into Tajikistan.
There is currently very little possible via the legal roads. It remains to be seen how the Taliban will behave once the international troops are gone.
Waiting for commercial flights
Sadaf (33) came to the Netherlands as a little girl with her parents and sister. She has several relatives in Afghanistan who are trying to flee. “A cousin of mine got a visa for America, but he was afraid to go to the airport with his wife and baby,” Sadaf says. “He wants to wait until things calm down and maybe commercial flights come again. Then he can try to get to the US via India.”
According to the US, the Taliban would also be helpful to help foreigners leave Afghanistan after August 31. The country’s economy is at a standstill and in order to get things going again, the Taliban will have to show some kind of benevolence. There are serious doubts as to whether they keep that promise and, moreover, it is of no use to Afghans without a foreign passport, such as the interpreters.
Veteran Roy Grinwis (35) has been doing his best for weeks to get interpreters who have worked for the Dutch military out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, his friend W. was unable to get on the plane and he lost contact with four other families. “They may have gotten their phones wet at the airport from the water in the sewers they had to walk through,” he says.
Roy is now inventorying the options. According to him, there are two options: cross the border and then report to the embassy in Pakistan or Uzbekistan. But the chances of the Taliban letting them through are slim. “Outside the transitions there are also places where you can cross the border, but that is very difficult for families with small children.” Roy, like many others, hopes that when the airport reopens, there will be new opportunities to leave Afghanistan.
There is a lot of mountainous area in Afghanistan. That makes it difficult to cross borders. In addition, there is a fence of about 2600 kilometers along the Pakistani border.
There are two main smuggling routes. One from Nimruz province to Pakistan, from where people go directly to Iran. This route is known for drug smuggling. Smugglers confirm to The Guardian that the number of refugees asking for help has risen sharply, from 50 to 150 vehicles.
Another smuggling route also goes directly to Iran from Herat province, but that option is much more dangerous. Iran is building tent camps to receive refugees, but also says it will send Afghans back once the situation calms down. Many Afghans use Iran as a transit country and will eventually try to reach Europe via Turkey. But there too, a wall is being built to stop the refugees.
Parnian (24) is also in constant contact with family and friends in Afghanistan. “Two nieces of mine have worked for the German government. We are trying to get the whole family to the Netherlands, but it is very difficult.”
Parnian’s cousin is in danger: he studied at an American university. Attempts to contact the German government were unsuccessful. “They really leave Afghans to their own devices,” Parnian says. “In principle, you can now only get out of the country via smuggling routes. But that is very dangerous and the smugglers charge ridiculous amounts. Everyone without money is left behind.”