Netherlands evacuate 294 Afghans through Pakistan

KABUL (AFP): The Netherlands has evacuated 294 Afghan citizens who arrived in neighbouring Pakistan over the last few days and will be flown soon to a Dutch destination, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The group, consisting of translators, non-governmental workers and other people assisting Dutch missions to the war-torn country as well as their families, have been allowed across the Afghan-Pakistani border following “intense diplomatic negotiations,” the Hague-based ministry said in a statement.

The group consists of “persons and families of whom not everyone has valid travel documents,” it added.

“The Pakistani authorities have made an exception for this specific group and have given permission to travel to the Netherlands via that country,” the foreign ministry said.

The group is currently being housed by the Dutch government in hotels in Islamabad, the NOS public broadcaster reported.

A first group of 35 evacuees were given permission to travel to Pakistan in January and arrived on Friday in the Netherlands on a charter flight via Hanover in Germany, the foreign ministry added.

The Netherlands evacuated more than 1,500 people, both Dutch nationals and eligible Afghans, in the final chaotic days before the US pulled out of Afghanistan on August 31.

But many Afghans were left behind, including 22 interpreters, according to the government, despite calls from MPs and diplomats in Kabul to evacuate them months ago.

The chaotic Dutch withdrawal prompted two ministers to resign in its wake.

“The Dutch government continues to look for solutions to this and in the meantime advises people to apply for a passport where possible,” the foreign ministry said.