This morning, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel visited the camp for Afghan refugees at the military base in Torrejón de Ardoz. Together with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, they demonstrated the EU's commitment to the crisis in Afghanistan. Commission President Von der Leyen also used the press conference to announce that Brussels does not recognise the new Taliban regime. "There are no political talks with the Taliban," she said. The European politician reported that there are only operational contacts to evacuate people.
Von der Leyen also warned about the possible refugee crisis, stressing the need for Brussels to "prevent people from falling into the hands of mafias". With regard to the evacuation operation carried out by the Spanish Armed Forces, the President pointed out that "Spain is an example of what the soul of Europe is" by showing its humanity and its great sense of solidarity.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, reiterated the words of his European partner, assuring that "Spain shows great commitment". Michel also appealed to the international community, stressing that "it must try to defend its principles".
Pedro Sánchez, for his part, pointed out that this mission vindicates "the best values of the European Union: unity and solidarity". He also thanked the diplomatic team and the Armed Forces for their work. "We are there through thick and thin", he declared. With regard to the current crisis in Afghanistan due to the withdrawal of foreign troops, Sánchez assured that these last two decades "have not been in vain". The President spoke about the Badghis region, where Spanish troops built hospitals, schools and provided schooling for boys and girls. "Spain will always be committed to the defence of human rights, democracy and freedom," he added.
The second A400M aircraft of the Armed Forces from Dubai has already arrived at Torrejón de Ardoz. The aircraft, with 110 passengers on board, left Kabul yesterday at 6:30 a.m. and made a technical stopover in the Emirate city. A temporary camp has been set up at the Madrid military base to accommodate Afghan refugees who collaborated with the Spanish troops in Afghanistan and their families. Since the Taliban began their offensive, translators and other NATO-linked workers have warned of the reprisals they could face for working with foreign troops.
In addition to aid workers, vulnerable people have also arrived, such as wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat, 28. When Bayat was two years old, a missile damaged his spinal cord and killed one of his brothers. Thanks to Spanish journalist Antonio Pampliega, his story became known on social networks, until these messages reached the Spanish Basketball Federation and the Spanish Sports Centre.
Several national teams have already expressed their intention to sign Bayat, such as Minusval Melilla or Bidaideak Bilbao BSR. "If she wants, we will open our home to her, we offer her a place where she can feel comfortable", said Txema Alonso, from the Bilbao team. Travelling with the athlete was her husband Ramish, also disabled due to an accident during the war.
Afghans arriving in Torrejón stay at least 72 hours before being transferred. The camp is divided between the igloo tents where the women and children stay, and the pavilion where the men stay. There is also a children's area where refugee children can play. There is also a medical team that performs antigen tests and several psychologists. During their stay at the military base, bureaucratic formalities are taken care of. Once their asylum application has been formalised, the integration process will begin, which will last between six and nine months. Larger families will be provided with flats to live in. On the other hand, in the reception centres, the Afghans will have Spanish classes and will receive psychological help.
The third and last flight sent by Spain to Kabul has already landed in Dubai. The 110 passengers on board are expected to arrive in Madrid around six in the evening. "Our intention is not to leave any Afghan collaborator without taking them out of there," declared Admiral General Teodoro López Calderón.