An Afghan recently repatriated to France after the Taliban took power on August 15 has been taken into custody because of his alleged links with the Islamist fighters. Four of his relatives are under surveillance by France's General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI).
On Monday (August 23), the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin initially announced that the man, who was flown to France after he helped the French Embassy to evacuate, had been placed under house arrest and surveillance because authorities "suspected this person to have or to have had ties with the Afghan Taliban government."
He was subsequently placed in custody after breaking the terms of his house arrest "for a few minutes," Darmanin confirmed on Tuesday to franceinfo.
Darmanin denied there was any “fault” in the screening process for evacuees, some of which took place at the French military base in Abu Dhabi, where French evacuation flights are stopping over. This is when the man admitted he was previously responsible for a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul.
"He and his contacts are now being monitored by the General Directorate for Internal Security and geolocated," he said.
"He is an Afghan man who, when the embassy was evacuated, helped French citizens and people who worked for France get out, during an incredibly tense moment, and who probably saved lives," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFMTV on Tuesday.
Right-wing presidential hopefuls Valérie Pécresse and Xavier Betrand and the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen pounced on the situation, calling for the immediate expulsion of the man if his ties were confirmed.
Since the beginning of the evacuation operations from Kabul, after the return to power of the Taliban on August 15, over a thousand Afghans have been exfiltrated to France.
"More than 1,000 Afghans and a hundred French people were taken from Kabul, brought to Abu Dhabi, and from Abu Dhabi, to Paris. All those who, in the confusion, could not be screened by the security services, were screened at the French military base. Among these 1,000 Afghans, there was indeed one who was clearly linked to the Taliban, but who helped the French army, the French people and your fellow journalists a great deal," said Darmanin to franceinfo.
As "we did indeed suspect this person of having or having had links with the Taliban Afghan government, we decided to put him under surveillance as soon as he arrived on national soil. Today, he and his contacts are being monitored by the DGSI and geolocated."
Refugee status in danger
In addition, the interior ministry has noted administrative inconsistencies concerning "twenty" Afghans exfiltrated in recent days from Kabul. These refugees already had refugee status in France, the interior ministry told AFP. An investigation has been opened into these people and they are at risk of having their protection withdrawn.
"About 20 people presented French asylum documents proving they had refugee status, when they were exfiltrated. You are not supposed to return to the country where you are supposed to be in danger," explained the ministry.
According to the statutes of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), which issues and withdraws this protection, "travel back to the country of origin" is one of the main reasons for the loss of status.
The ministry said it intends to be "magnanimous" and has "launched an investigation to study the situation of these people on a case-by-case basis", many of whom claim to have returned to Afghanistan "to get their families back, before the fall of power to the Taliban."
"We will be vigilant, but it would be complicated to withdraw the protection of these people if they had gone to help their families. The withdrawal will not be automatic," it said.