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Swiss evacuations from Afghanistan completed

Keystone/Peter Schneider

All Swiss citizens and people working for the Swiss development agency in Afghanistan are in safety.

This content was published on August 24, 2021 - 18:13
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Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said a total of 292 people had been flown out and some 60 others were currently in a safe place at Kabul airport waiting for their evacuation to neighbouring Uzebekistan.

“One of the largest operations of this kind has almost reached its end,” Cassis told a news conference on Tuesday.

Switzerland plans no further evacuations, he added. The foreign ministry believes that everyone wishing to leave Afghanistan following the takeover by the Taliban last week is safe.

Cassis explicitly thanked Germany, the United States and Uzbekistan for their assistance.

A plane with 219 people on board, including 141 Afghan employees working for the Swiss development agency and their closest family touched down in at Switzerland’s main airport of Zurich earlier on Tuesday.

The Swiss embassy in Pakistan is in contact with  at least 15 registered Swiss citizens who are still in Afghanistan, he said.

Bridge building

He reiterated Switzerland’s offer of hosting an international conference on Afghanistan and he stressed the willingness for dialogue with all sides.

“This is fundamental to be able to help build bridges,” he said.

Cassis also said the Swiss representative at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council had called on all sides to respect human rights and protect women, minorities, activists and journalists.

He also indicated that the Swiss government might pledge financial aid to international aid organisations supporting the population in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian asylum

However, the Swiss government refuses to grant humanitarian visas to at least 5,000 refugees despite calls by left-wing parties and rights groups.

Mario Gattiker, head of the state secretariat for migration in the justice ministry, told journalists that security concerns made it impossible to grant blanket visas.

A petition, which was handed in to the Swiss authorities on Tuesday, was signed by 23,000 people.

The 141 Afghan employees of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation were granted refugee status following a security and identity checks. They were also vaccinated against Covid-19, Gattiker said.

Fundraising for Afghanistan

The Swiss Solidarity charity has launched a fundraising campaign to help people impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan.

Money can be donated via the website (www.swiss-solidarity.orgExternal link) or using e-banking services with the IBAN account number CH82 0900 0000 1001 5000 6.

Swiss Solidarity is the humanitarian arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, SWI swissinfo.ch’s parent company. The foundation also cooperates with private companies and media outlets.

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