Madrid sets up European ‘logistics hub’ for evacuated Afghans

Attribution: Aykut Karadağ/Anadolu Agency

Military base will act as temporary shelter for those seeking asylum in EU states

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – A Spanish airbase near Madrid will act as the “logistics hub” for Afghan citizens brought in by European authorities, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Friday.

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster Cadena Ser, Albares said that the plan is to fly in Afghan citizens to the military base, where they will stay for no more than 72 hours.

“In the hub, they will receive temporary permission to enter Europe and the rest of the countries, who want to take them in, will give them asylum status,” he said.

On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is set to accompany European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to the Torrejón Air Base.

The shelter at the airbase has room for around 800 people, with men sleeping in one area and women and children in another.

The temporary shelter has already taken in dozens of Afghans picked up by Spanish authorities from the Kabul airport. Eventually, it could also start taking in Afghans evacuated by other EU countries.

Albares said Spain has committed to resettling 50 Afghans.

Spanish military planes have so far picked up around 160 people from the Kabul airport, mainly Spanish citizens and Afghans who have worked with Spanish authorities in the past.

Nilofar Bayat, the captain of Afghanistan’s female Paralympics basketball team, was on Spain’s latest evacuation flight, which could land at the airbase later on Friday.

Spain has promised to evacuate hundreds of more Afghans, many of whom have not been able to access the airport.

Albares called the situation in Kabul “very difficult.”

“It is impossible to know how long this mission will take. We will be there until everyone is out,” he said.

Albares also said that he has asked US officials to facilitate Spain’s rescue mission.

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