The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday afternoon, August 19, that 90 more Filipinos were remaining in Afghanistan, as countries struggle to evacuate civilians after Taliban forces took hold of the capital Kabul.
The DFA had earlier estimated 132 Filipinos were in Afghanistan, 42 of whom had fled the country. Of the 90 Filipinos still in the country, 79 have requested to return to the Philippines, the DFA added.
Philippine officials said they continued to exhaust “all avenues” to ensure the safety of Filipinos and their evacuation.
Since August 15, the Philippines raised its highest crisis alert level, Alert Level 4, over Afghanistan. This means officials must undertake the mandatory evacuation of all Filipinos in the area. Alert Level 4, which is issued “when there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack,” had been raised “due to the worsening situation in the country.”
Attempts to evacuate Filipinos in Afghanistan come as more nations move to repatriate its diplomats and citizens still in the country. Flights into and out of the country, however, have been limited and erratic.
The DFA said on Wednesday evening that two attempts had been made to evacuate Filipinos via New Delhi, India and Islamabad, Pakistan, but these did not push through after all commercial flights were cancelled.
Access to and within the airport in Kabul remains “very difficult,” the DFA said, adding that checking-in likewise offered “no assurance” that flights would be able to leave the country. Despite this, the DFA gave assurances it would continue to repatriate Filipinos.
“Filipinos still remaining in Afghanistan are further advised to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, and to be able to travel with minimal luggage,” it said.
Several Filipinos had been reportedly able to leave Afghanistan with the help of their foreign employers, including seven Filipinos confirmed to have evacuated to Qatar, and another five to the United Kingdom.
The DFA said the country’s embassies abroad were likewise verifying reports of other Filipinos who have supposedly left Kabul.
“In all cases, the DFA will assist in their return to the Philippines,” it said.
The crisis in Afghanistan deepened in recent days, after Taliban forces captured Kabul on Sunday, August 15, pushing the Western-backed President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of Sharia, or Islamic law. The Taliban have said they wanted peace and would respect the rights of women “but within the framework” of Islamic law.
In the hours after the Taliban’s takeover, scenes of chaos and fear were seen as hundreds of desperate Afghans seeking to flee the country were waiting for flights, some dragging luggage across runways in the dark.
The Philippines earlier said it would open its doors to Afghan refugees, citing it was in line with the country’s long history of taking in asylum seekers since the first World War. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com