Wednesday 23 June 2021

MPs urge faster evacuation of Afghan interpreters to the Netherlands

The Netherlands is being urged to speed up the evacuation of interpreters who worked for the defence ministry in Afghanistan, now the end of the international mission is in sight.

The Netherlands has employed 273 interpreters in the 20 years the Dutch army has been active in Afghanistan, according to defence ministry figures. Now a campaign is underway to make sure that the interpreters and their families are brought to safety in the west, given that the Nato mission to Afghanistan will end in September.

But so far, only 68 interpreters have made it to the Netherlands and 83 are still waiting for a visa, RTL Nieuws reported on Tuesday. A further 101 applications have been rejected.

Parliament agreed in 2019 that interpreters who worked for the Dutch army should automatically be given a visa and allowed to apply for asylum once in the Netherlands. But that does mean their identity should first be established and ‘we have to be certain that the applicant did indeed work as an interpreter for the Netherlands as part of the international mission,’ defence minister Ank Bijleveld is quoted as saying in the NRC.

While this may seem logical, it is an ‘enormous bureaucratic procedure,’ Anne-Marie Snels, former leader of the AFMP defence union told the paper.

The 20 page form that needs to be completed includes questions such as ‘how do you know you are in danger because of your work for Dutch soldiers’ and ‘could you live safely in another part of Afghanistan’.

In addition, providing a valid identity document is not easy in a failed state which is increasingly in the hands of the Taliban, the NRC said.

Urgency

‘We miss a feeling of urgency,’ Labour MP Kati Piri told the NRC. ‘We want an evacuation plan.’ The situation is due to be debated by MPs in the parliamentary defence committee later on Wednesday.

‘Time is ticking on and these people are being threatened with death,’ VVD MP Jeroen van Wijngaarden said. ‘The Dutch cabinet should do all it can to bring these interpreters who were so essential for our safety back to the Netherlands – if that is what they want.’

Estimates of the number of locals who worked for Nato forces and who have already been killed vary from hundreds to more than 1,000.

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