Doha route now seems only way to evacuate people from Kabul

Another two thousand Afghans are on the Dutch evacuation list. Getting out of the country is practically impossible. Only the evacuation flights between Qatar and Afghanistan, the so-called Doha route, offer hope. โ€œWe are committed to bringing people to safety,โ€ says Marjan Kamstra, the Dutch ambassador to Qatar in the CCeit Radio 1 Journal.

Kamstra is closely involved in the operation. She talks about how the evacuation works, and what people involved run into.

Evacuation flights to Kabul leave every week from Doha, the capital of Qatar, to pick up evacuees. Those planes then return to Doha. There Kamstra, along with her colleagues, awaits the evacuees who eventually travel to the Netherlands. They are housed somewhere and they receive medical attention if necessary.

โ€œWhen we arrive, we‘ll be back the next day for things like visas, tickets to the Netherlands and a PCR test. Because people are exhausted upon arrival, they have an exciting time on it. The first priority is equipping,โ€ says the ambassador.

Kamstra during evacuees arrival. The pictures were delivered by the State Department:

In the Netherlands, there are call teams working day and night, where people who want to be evacuated or know someone can report. โ€œThe call teams are looking at what’s possible. That is based on the terms and conditions set by other authorities. As a country, we provide a list, and then we‘ll be told who’s flying to Doha shortly in advance.โ€

The Qatari authorities facilitate evacuation flights. To actually get people along, a lot of consultation is needed. The rules have also changed over time. For example, on the first flights, only people with foreign passports were able to join them. In the case of Dutch evacuees, people with a Dutch passport. In the meantime, evacuees with an Afghan passport can also board.

โ€œIn August, for example, a mother reported to the ministry in The Hague. Her 11 and 14 daughters were in Kabul. The girls have an Afghan passport, so they couldn‘t go on the first flights,โ€ Kamstra says. Eventually there was a green light for evacuees with Afghan passports and so those two girls could be brought to the Netherlands as well.

Although that took a lot of paperwork, because they are underage, they succeeded. โ€œAt some point you get a picture of the girls with their mother, in the Netherlands. That does something to me. I also have children of the same age,โ€ Kamstra said.

Although more than 200 people have been evacuated via the Doha route, evacuation is not yet possible for everyone. For example, theCCeit reported last week that people without a passport are not allowed to leave Afghanistan. That appears to be a Taliban demand. โ€œWe want to do everything we can to evacuate people without travel documents, but that’s not an option now. It is not a requirement of the Netherlands, but it is of the authorities in Afghanistan themselves.โ€

So about two thousand people are waiting for evacuation from Afghanistan. Yesterday it was announced that some 240 Afghans are demanding evacuation in letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IND. If they don‘t get an answer within two weeks, they’ll go to court. The Afghans are assisted by fifteen Dutch lawyers.

According to Kamstra, it is difficult to look forward, but the Netherlands will certainly continue the evacuations via the Doha route. โ€œIt‘s an uncertain situation and we need to see what is possible step by step. But we’re doing everything we can to get people to safety.โ€