The other exodus: Asian foreign workers fleeing Kabul
Philippine migrant workers and contractors in Afghanistan are among those leaving the country. They can be easily identifiable as Christian. Some have decided to stay because they still need to support their family back home. First plane evacuates Indians. Meanwhile, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has arrived in Kabul.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The tragic scenes from Kabul airport have focused on Westerners and Afghans trying to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. However, another group of people are currently caught up in the country’s crisis, namely the large group of non-Western, mostly Asian workers.
In recent years, many of them moved to Afghanistan to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the presence of foreign military contingents and the reconstruction initiatives undertaken by humanitarian groups.
The case of the Philippines is typical with its migrant workers in almost every corner of the world, including hundreds in Afghanistan, especially among contractors hired by the US military.
In early 2021, almost 2,000 Filipinos lived in Afghanistan, but over the months the numbers dropped.
When chaos broke out in Kabul on Sunday, at least 171 Filipinos were registered with the Philippine embassy in Pakistan, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, employed by 33 companies, ranging from security to telecommunications.
Since then, some managed to reach the Gulf countries evacuated by their employers; a second group arrived in London with the British airlift, while five who took refuge with the Indonesian embassy arrived in Jakarta.
According to the latest figures released by the Philippine Foreign Ministry, 42 Filipinos are still in Afghanistan awaiting new flights. They should leave in the coming days.
Filipinos in Afghanistan share the same fear as other foreigners still present in the country, to which must be added the fact that the Taliban can easily identify them as Catholics.
For now, the Taliban in Kabul have seemingly not committed any acts of violence against them. As a result, some have told their embassy that they do not want to be evacuated.
Speaking to the Manila-based GMA TV network, a Philippine worker waiting to leave said: “We have many fellow Filipinos in Afghanistan who wanted to stay, basically due to the work to support their families.”
India too is repatriating its own citizens. Many Indian companies have been involved in important infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. One Indian Air Force plane left Kabul with 85 on board.
Concerns were raised this morning when some media reported that the Taliban had seized 150 Indian nationals trying to reach the airport, a story that turned out to be false.
In reality, the Taliban just questioned them before they left the country. Later, Indian authorities confirmed that they were all free and were expected to be evacuated soon.
Meanwhile, Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul today; he is touted to be Afghanistan’s next leader.
“The Islamic Emirate wants good diplomatic and trade relations with all countries,” including the US, a Taliban source tweeted.
However, on the ground, this claim appears empty as more and more reports are coming in from Afghanistan’s provinces about the Taliban carrying out acts of violence, going door-to-door in search of activists, journalists and local officials.