Foreign Affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva has confirmed that Portugal is ready to welcome 50 Afghan refugees, in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last Sunday following the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Chaos has ensued in the country as Afghan citizens try to flee from the new regime, which they fear will take Afghanistan back to a “reign of terror” and erase 20 years of gains for Afghan women and Afghan citizens in general.
“The EU has asked all members states to participate in a first effort to ensure that hundreds of people who collaborate with European External Action Service and with the European Embassy in Kabul are protected,” said Santos Silva.
“We have already communicated our availability to welcome 20 of those people. And today (Wednesday) at the meeting of NATO ambassadors, we also put forward a proposal to welcome a further 30 immediately.”
Said the minister, the EU has an “obligation to protect and safeguard the lives of the many thousands of Afghan citizens who collaborate with international forces, such as translators, who now see their safety at risk.”
While the Taliban has promised a more moderate take on its policies of the past, Santos Silva said we have to ‘see it to believe it’.
“They say they are different from what they were 20 years ago, even saying they will respect the rights of women in particular, and that they want to form an inclusive government, with representatives from many Afghan political forces. It is in their hands to show us we can trust them,” he said.
Defence minister João Gomes Cravinho added that Portugal is “working hard” to provide refuge to Afghans as soon as this month.
He said the priority is to remove from Afghanistan “all the foreigners who want to leave and all Afghans who have worked over the years with foreign forces.”
While the USA is being vehemently criticised across the globe for the way it pulled out of Afghanistan, the minister does not believe the last 20 years of work were in vain.
“These were 20 years during which the people of Afghanistan benefitted from a better country. I also believe that some seeds were planted for the future. We had 20 years of Afghan girls attending school, there is a whole generation that had opportunities they hadn’t had before and which will be reflected on their lives and the country,” said the minister.
He added that if the Taliban regime wants to ‘build bridges’ with the rest of the world, it must ensure two things: “That human rights are respected, and that Afghanistan does not become a base for terrorism.”