Afghan interpreters in spotlight as second Czech plane lands in Kabul
A second Czech aircraft, intended for transporting evacuees from Kabul to Prague, landed in the Afghan capital on Tuesday. Like other NATO states, the Czech Republic is struggling to evacuate its Afghan co-workers from the possible wrath of Taliban forces which entered Kabul last week. Meanwhile, a debate has flared up on the Czech political scene about whether the government is doing enough to help Afghan interpreters who helped Czech troops.
After a day-long intermission, a second Czech evacuation plane was able to land at Kabul Airport sometime around noon on Tuesday. The airport had been filled with Afghans seeking to escape advancing Taliban forces since Sunday, but reinforced US troops managed to bring order to the facility and the Czech aircraft, held up for several hours in Baku, was able to land.
The aircraft is expected to transport more Czechs and selected Afghans back to the Czech Republic, following up on an earlier plane that transported 46 people, mainly embassy staff back to Prague on Monday. In total, the Czech government is planning on evacuating around 100 people from Afghanistan.
Among the evacuees are also around 20 Afghan interpreters who served with Czech troops during their posting in the country as part of NATO peacekeeping operations.
According to the organisation Vlčí Máky (Popyseeds), which focuses on helping veterans, the interpreters are currently in hiding near the airport in Kabul. One man who served as an interpreter was captured by the Taliban and beaten, but was later released after his relatives pled to let him go, according to the organisation.
Lumír Němec is a Czech Army veteran who served with the military police in Afghanistan and is currently part of the initiative Zachraňte tlumočníky (Save the interpreters). He shared further details with Czech Radio on Monday.
“The interpreter is currently on the run and we are trying to get him to a safe spot where he can then be evacuated – he was added to the government rescue programme on Monday.
“The saddest thing about all of this is that, as late as Sunday, he was contacted by someone from the Czech Republic and asked to provide his family details. After 10 minutes he got a call in which they told him he has not been placed into the program. This whole incident could have been prevented if it had not been carried out in such a chaotic way.”
Unhappy with the way the government has been handling the evacuation, Lumír Němec said that there was ample time over the past years during which help and resettlement could have been provided to Afghan support staff. Speaking to Czech Radio he said that the original programme had been put on hold in 2017.
“Only very recently, in July, the government approved a resolution that mentioned financial help and asylum for some of the concerned individuals. However, financial help does not solve anything and the offer of asylum should have been given to all of those who helped us.”
His words were echoed by the head of the Association for Integration and Migration Magda Faltová, who told news site Aktuálně.cz that the Czech Republic halted its resettlement programme for Afghans in 2017 and was not active until July 30 of this year.
Czech Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar tweeted on Tuesday morning that the aim is to evacuate as many of the Afghans who helped Czech troops as possible. However, very few details are being communicated to the public, with government officials emphasising the classified nature of the operation.
Defence Minister Metnar said that the reason why some interpreters have not been contacted is either because their contract had already long run out, or because they did not pass the compulsory security screening check.