The first civilians evacuated from Afghanistan land at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport | Photo: Twitter account for the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII)
The first civilians evacuated from Afghanistan land at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport | Photo: Twitter account for the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII)

A plane carrying 184 Afghan civilians landed at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport, near Paris, on Wednesday. A further 180 Afghans touched down on Thursday evening. Didier Leschi, director general of the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII), explains to InfoMigrants how these emergency evacuations are organized and what will happen to these refugees now.

An Air Force plane landed on the tarmac at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris on August 18. On board were 184 Afghan civilians. [The flight included 186 civilians in total, including 184 Afghan nationals, and 2 Kenyan nationals.] All had been urgently evacuated following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban.

"OFII agents welcome the first arrivals from #Afghanistan after the fall of #Kabul. 110 adults and 76 children were on this first flight." This was the message posted on the Twitter account of the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII), the official organization responsible for ensuring the care of asylum seekers and refugees on French soil.

This is the second arrival of a plane in Paris since the government set up an air bridge to evacuate French and Afghan nationals from the country. A first plane, carrying mainly French nationals, landed on Monday, August 16.

A third flight, which transited through Abu Dhabi, landed at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle Airport on the evening of August 19. It had 180 Afghans on board. This flight was carrying "more than 200 people, including French nationals and in large majority Afghan nationals," an Interior Ministry statement said.

"The situation in Kabul is still complex. All the State services concerned and the French Embassy on the ground remain fully mobilized to ensure further flight rotations as soon as possible," the Interior Ministry statement said.

Quarantined then directed to accommodation

In total, since the beginning of the Taliban offensive, nearly 1,000 Afghans have been evacuated to France. "Between March and July, we have already brought in 624 Afghans. These were people who had worked alongside the French army," explains Didier Leschi, the director general of the OFII, speaking with InfoMigrants.

The profiles of the people arriving now are different. "They are doctors, artists, people from the world of culture. People who, because of their professions, their actions, their positions, were targeted by the Taliban."

All of them will be quarantined in hotels in the Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris. "In a second phase, they will be directed to permanent reception centers", says Leschi. From there, their administrative asylum process will begin.

"They will have to follow the usual procedure, albeit an accelerated one. They will have to go to a one-stop shop [register at the prefecture, editor's note] and then Ofpra, the office for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers. They will also be entitled to the asylum seekers' allowance (ADA).

'They left everything in a hurry'

At the Paris airport, agents from OFII, France Terre d'asile, translators and interpreters are present to help and orient people. "These are disoriented people, obviously. They are shocked by the situation in their country. They are people who had never thought of leaving, who were professionally established," Leschi emphasizes.

They do not have the "usual profile" of Afghan asylum seekers who have arrived in France in recent months and years - and who are found on the northern coast of France, towards Calais. "They are older. They don't come from the same social class. They didn't arrange their own exile, since they had never thought of coming here," describes the director general of OFII. "They left everything in a hurry."

Evacuating to all over Europe

Internationally, emergency evacuations are also increasing. The United Kingdom has taken in 306 Britons and 2,052 Afghans, "in complete safety," Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.

Germany has already evacuated 500 people, according to its Foreign Ministry. Spain, for its part, has begun a first series of rotations with three military aircraft. In the early hours of August 18, 89 people evacuated from Kabul, including five Spaniards and 32 minors, arrived at a newly-created base near Madrid.

In Italy, a military plane landed in Rome on Wednesday carrying 86 people: Italians, Afghans and their families, as well as NATO and European Union personnel, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry. Some 200 other people are also expected in Italy.

In addition, 84 people, mainly Afghans, flew from Kabul to Copenhagen on Wednesday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen announced.

The US military has already evacuated more than 3,200 people, including US personnel, using military aircraft. In addition, nearly 2,000 Afghans have been flown to the United States. The country plans to evacuate more than 30,000 people via its bases in Kuwait and Qatar.


More articles