294 Afghans destined for the Netherlands arrive in Pakistan
Over the past few days, 294 Afghans ultimately destined for the Netherlands have arrived in Pakistan. Some of the individuals and families concerned are not in possession of valid travel documents. The Pakistani authorities have made an exception for this specific group of people and have given permission for them to travel to the Netherlands via Pakistan.
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra: ‘It is very complicated to help people without passports to travel to the Netherlands. Thanks in part to the Pakistani authorities, it has been possible to provide assistance to this particular group. The government is continuing its strenuous efforts to bring eligible Afghans to the Netherlands.’
The preparations for this operation began in October. Following intensive diplomatic talks, Pakistan offered the Netherlands the opportunity to submit a list of Afghans who were eligible to be brought to the Netherlands but who were not in possession of valid travel documents. With the consent of those involved, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted the names to the Pakistani authorities in November. During a recent visit to Pakistan by the Ministry’s Secretary-General Paul Huijts, following a telephone conversation between Minister Hoekstra and his Pakistani counterpart, the green light was given.
As soon as official authorisation had been obtained, the Afghan families in question were informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and provided with instructions. With the help of the Dutch embassy, they crossed the border between 19 and 23 February. In Pakistan, they were received by the Dutch embassy in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration. The Dutch government is committed to ensuring that these people are able to continue their journey to the Netherlands as soon as possible. Further details will follow about how and when this is to happen.
The group consists of a number of Dutch residents, Afghans who have performed high-profile duties for the Netherlands as interpreters or other officials in an international military or police mission, Afghan NGO staff covered by the special provisions as set out in the letter to parliament of 11 October 2021 and members of their immediate families. In January, the Netherlands was granted permission by the Pakistani authorities to allow the first group of 35 Afghans to enter the country without valid travel documents. Most of them were able to travel to the Netherlands on a German charter flight via Hannover last Friday.
For the time being, it is not possible to help other Afghans who are eligible to be brought to the Netherlands but have no passport. The Dutch government is continuing to seek a solution and advises people in the meantime to apply for a passport wherever possible. It is impossible to say exactly how many Afghans are still eligible for travel to the Netherlands as assessments are still being carried out in various parts of the Dutch government.