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Dozens of Afghans fleeing to Pakistan and Iran are left in limbo when Spain cancels their consular appointments to request asylum


The Embassy in Islamabad cancels for "administrative reasons" meetings that it scheduled months ago. Foreign Affairs denies that there is "any abandonment" and affirms that the Spanish legations have been supporting the refugees since the Taliban came to power

Shayesta Q. sends a photo of a one-armed man via WhatsApp.

It is her father, and the person who amputated her left hand is the young woman's ex-husband, a Taliban with whom her family forced her to marry at the age of 18 and whom the fundamentalists released from prison as soon as they regained power in Afghanistan. on August 15, 2021. That day her “misery” began, laments the woman.

Also the escape from her.

Shayesta took his three-year-old son M. and ran away.

Her ex-husband has been trying to hunt her down ever since.

He mutilated her father to reveal the girl's whereabouts, imprisoned her brother and pursued her and found her in Islamabad, Pakistan, where the 24-year-old arrived nine months ago.

Shayesta managed to flee again and today she lives in hiding, with "terror" that "that murderer" will find her,

He killed her and interned her son in a fundamentalist madrasa to "make another criminal out of him."

This woman had one hope: the appointment that the Spanish Embassy in the Pakistani capital had given her on May 30 to assess whether she would grant her a visa to travel to Spain and request asylum.

She was summoned on November 7, almost five months later, but on November 1 the Embassy canceled the appointment.

Shayesta and her son are one more of the "at least 30 persecuted Afghan families, of which 90% have a woman as the head of the family, whose appointments granted months ago by the Spanish Embassy in Pakistan were canceled on November 1 ”, explains Inma Orquín, spokesperson for Afghan Women on the Run (Fugitive Afghan Women), the feminist group that processed the requests of these families, together with the NGO Un Gesto de Calor, by phone from Valencia.

EL PAÍS has had access to the generic mail from the Embassy that Shayesta and other Afghans received, in which the cancellation is confirmed for "administrative reasons", it is reported that they will be assigned a new appointment, according to the order of arrival of the first mail that they sent requesting this, and it is specified that, "given the volume of requests", this procedure "can be managed in a long period of time (several months or even more than a year)";

i.e. 2024.

Pakistan embassy mail

In an email sent this Tuesday by an employee of the consular services of the Spanish Embassy in Pakistan to an activist for the rights of Afghans, to whom this newspaper has also had access, it reads: "The waiting list [of Afghans ] it's huge.

We are interviewing cases that requested an appointment in March of this year.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contacted by EL PAÍS, assures that it has not abandoned these asylum seekers and stresses that Spain has been helping thousands of Afghans to leave the country to escape the Taliban for a year and a half.

In another Spanish embassy, ​​that of Iran, Orquín maintains, "none of the appointment requests" to process asylum for Afghans presented by his group "since the month of March" have received a response.

“Since then, we have 40 Afghan families waiting to be summoned to Iran.

Four are single Afghans, and two are single mothers with babies.”

The cancellation of these appointments granted months ago in Pakistan may have "serious consequences," warns Orquín, especially for Afghans who, like Shayesta, are alone with small children.

Almost all of these women entered Pakistani territory with visas that have already expired.

They are now in limbo, unable to return to their country and in an irregular situation in Pakistan.

deportation risk

The possibility of deportation to Afghanistan looming over these women has been heightened after the Pakistani government recently announced that it will repatriate all Afghans without visas effective December 31.

"According to an Afghan lawyer in Pakistan, this expulsion can be stopped if it is shown that they have an appointment with an embassy of a third country to request asylum," says the spokesperson for the feminist group.

“When the appointments with the Spanish embassies are cancelled, the risk of falling into the hands of the Taliban that threatens these Afghans increases,” criticizes Orquín.

On Tuesday, the Taliban government prohibited Afghans from studying at the university and this Saturday prevented them from continuing to work in national and international NGOs, two new steps in the repression against the women of fundamentalists, from which the Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan try to escape.

Orquín describes the "desperation" of these women, hidden in those two countries, "without being able to work or send their children to school."

“They are threatened with death by the Taliban.

They have suffered beatings and sexual violence and 95% are malnourished.

They don't even have enough to eat and they had been waiting for months for these appointments that Spain has cancelled.

Among them are journalists, a deputy,

lawyers and nurses.

Even a teacher and a painter.

For the Taliban, it is enough to have taught a girl to read and write to deserve death”, explains Orquín.

Foreign Ministry sources consulted by this newspaper affirm that there has been "no abandonment" by Spain of the Afghans who fled to neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran: "Rather the opposite," they maintain.

And they support their statement in the figures of Afghans evacuated by the Spanish authorities after the Taliban came to power.

Since August 2021, "Spain has evacuated more than 4,500 Afghans."

“Currently, the complexity of the files means that more time is needed to manage these requests, but even in these circumstances, appointments have not stopped at any time.

Spain is responding to the requests and supporting the Afghans to the best of its ability.

various professional associations,

In another email sent to the spokesperson for Afghan Women on the Run on October 18, signed by Rafael Ivorra Zaragoza, then in charge of Afghan Consular Affairs at the Spanish Embassy in Islamabad, this official confirmed the cancellation of "a series of appointments ” and assured that those affected “will be reassigned another in due time.”

During a telephone conversation with Ivorra on October 31, the official told Orquín that the Afghans would have to request a new appointment by email.

"They all requested it the next day, but neither the 30 families whose appointments were cancelled, who will now have to start the process from scratch, nor the other Afghans alone or alone with children who have requested to be received have yet had a response," denounces the activist.

“We are talking about the cases that we have processed.

This does not mean that the embassies of Iran and Pakistan have not given appointments to other Afghans”, she clarifies.

On December 9, Afghan Women on the Run and five other feminist associations —El Club de las 25, Un Gesto de Calor, Themis Association of Women Jurists, Netwomening and the Afghanistan Task Force—, which were joined by CC OO and UGT , they delivered a letter to Carmen Calvo, president of the Congressional Equality Commission, who received them in the Lower House.

The text denounced the cancellation of the appointments of the Afghans and their families.

According to Magis Iglesias, from El Club de las 25, Calvo promised that this commission would draw up a reception and distribution plan for the Afghans, agreed with the countries of the European Union.

The signatories of the letter recognized that, until November 1, the diplomatic legations of Spain had a "receptive attitude".

Orquín relates the "change in that attitude", which dates back to March, with the start of the war in Ukraine, on February 24.

It was then, he maintains, when Spain "began to deny visas to Afghans who met the same requirements that, until then, almost guaranteed the granting of asylum."

Since March, the government has granted 150,078 temporary protections to Ukrainian refugees.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2022-12-25

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