On Monday, France welcomed a handful of Afghan women threatened by the Taliban and exiled to neighboring Pakistan. This evacuation operation has been demanded for a long time by their supporters, who are calling on Paris to change gear with a humanitarian corridor dedicated to women.
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A symbolic first. On Monday September 4, France welcomed at least five Afghan women – including one accompanied by three children – threatened by the Taliban and exiled in Pakistan. This evacuation operation has been requested for a long time by their supporters. These women and children are due to land on Monday afternoon at Parisian Roissy airport, several months after fleeing the Taliban regime which returned to power in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
Former director of the University of Sciences, consultant for NGOs, television presenter or even teacher in a “secret school in Kabul”, they have in common that they were not able to benefit from the air bridges to Western countries during the fall. power in the hands of the Taliban. And to have had to flee on their own to neighboring Pakistan.
“According to the instructions given by the President of the Republic, particular attention is paid to women primarily threatened by the Taliban because they have had important positions in Afghan society (…) or close contacts with the Westerners. This is the case of the five women who arrived today (Monday),” Didier Leschi, director general of the French Office of Immigration and Integration (Ofii), a body under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior.
Upon their arrival, these women will be accommodated first in a “transit” center in the Paris region, registered as asylum seekers then directed to “long-term” accommodation, while the French Refugee Protection Office and stateless persons (Ofpra) rules on their cases, he said.
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“Quietly, Operation Apagan (exfiltration of Afghans to France) continues,” added prefect Didier Leschi, stressing that this type of evacuation operation is “likely to happen again if other women matching this profile have found refuge in Pakistan.
“Hundreds” of Afghan women “hidden” in Pakistan
However, if these arrivals constitute “good news”, they are “not the result of a political decision” but were “obtained through a tough struggle” by activists who fought “to obtain visas” for these women, deplored to AFP Delphine Rouilleault, general director of France Terre d’Asile, whose center will initially welcome them.
The association, which has been supporting calls to exfiltrate these women for several months, is calling for a “broader ad hoc reception program”, continued Delphine Rouilleault, who estimates the number of Afghan women “hidden” in Pakistan at “hundreds”. .
In the summer of 2021, President Emmanuel Macron promised that France would remain “alongside the Afghan women”, in the midst of an evacuation operation – 15,769 people between spring 2021 and the end of July 2023, according to the authorities.
Two years later, “women, in particular single women who did not have the necessary interpersonal skills, were largely neglected”, lamented at the end of April in a column in Le Monde the collective Accueillir les Afghanes, notably led by journalists.
Establish an “emergency” humanitarian reception program
“For them, there remain today only one-off initiatives, often carried out at arm’s length by journalists, researchers, organizations, to allow them to leave Afghanistan in small increments,” regretted the collective, calling on France to set up an “emergency” humanitarian reception program.
Since its return to power, the Taliban regime has gradually reduced the rights of Afghan women who can no longer go to school after the age of 12, access universities or parks or sports halls.
Women, who must cover themselves entirely when leaving their homes, also no longer have the right to work for NGOs and are excluded from most civil servant positions.
Will the evacuation carried out on Monday be followed by other, more significant ones? When asked, neither the Quai d’Orsay nor the Élysée wished to comment. And without the government taking a position, deplores France Terre d’Asile, the operation in any case does not have the value of “France’s commitment”.