Interpreters had to pass Taliban for abandoned passports in embassy

Several Afghan interpreters and their families were unable to access their passports for days because they were in the closed Dutch embassy in Kabul. With the help of local Afghan embassy staff, they received the passports back yesterday morning.

The Dutch staff had been gone for two days back then. On the night of Saturday to Sunday, the Dutch embassy staff were lighted off their beds and they were evacuated on Monday night. They probably left passports and other personal documents from the interpreters.

This is evident from discussions DecceIt had with one of the interpreters and several other stakeholders. The number of passports is unclear, but basically every interpreter who applied for a visa to travel to the Netherlands in recent weeks had to hand in his passport to the embassy.

DecceIT knows from three interpreters that their passport was still there Sunday when Dutch staff left the embassy. The three secretly recovered their passport yesterday morning and smuggled out under the eyes of the Taliban. Interpreters fear the revenge of the Taliban for working for foreign powers, which are seen by the Taliban as a hostile occupation force.

โ€œI returned my passport and my wedding certificate to the Dutch embassy on August 8, so I could fly away on a passenger flight last Tuesday,โ€ says the interpreter who spoke to DecceIT. He doesnt want his name to be disclosed because he fears that it could have a negative impact on an asylum application.

Last Monday, the day after the Taliban had fully taken Kabul, he and many other interpreters tried to get away from the airport. But he was there without his passport. โ€œA woman from the Dutch embassy told me she would tell the aviation personnel that I didnt have a passport so I could continue.โ€ That didnt work out in all the chaos.

The same applies to an interpreter who has contact with Jan Gras, a Dutchman who is committed to bringing Afghan interpreters to the Netherlands. โ€œHe went to the airport with his family on Monday, because there would be a flight for him. That didnt work out, after which he went hiding in Kabul. No papers, because they were at the Dutch embassy.โ€

A British Sky News team filmed how dangerous the situation around the airport is for people who want to leave:

Both interpreters received news from the Dutch Embassy Tuesday night. Dutch embassy employees were no longer present in Kabul at that time, and the embassy district was teeming with the Taliban. However, the interpreters had to pick up their passport there on Wednesday morning.

โ€œI was lucky they didnt search my bagโ€

The interpreter who wants to remain anonymous: โ€œI had actually agreed at a distance from the embassy, but no one was there. So I called whoever would give me the passport. I had to come to the embassy itself. There he was and he gave me the documents.โ€

On the way to the embassy, the Taliban did not ask questions, but when the interpreter already had his passport, it almost went wrong. โ€œThey asked what I did in the embassy district. I told them I was looking for a hospital and they happily accepted that. They showed me the way. I was lucky they didnt search my bag.โ€

The interpreter who has contact with Jan Gras also received questions from the Taliban. โ€œHe was there with his wife and children and was asked where he came from. I dont know exactly what he told, but he was allowed to go through.โ€

Both the interpreter and Jan Gras are fortunate that the Taliban did not notice the passports. The interpreter: โ€œIf the Taliban had entered the embassy, they could have destroyed those passports. Or they could have used it against me that my passport was there.โ€

โ€œWe were afraid the passports would be destroyed,โ€ says Jan Gras. โ€œTo get to the airport, you need a passport.โ€

The Taliban returned at lightning speed as a power in Afghanistan over the past few weeks. An explanation of the grouping, and what it stands for:

It is unclear how many passports have been on the Dutch embassy. DecceIT has submitted the interpreters experiences to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but that says it cannot communicate on this issue. Involved people say there are no more passports on the embassy now.

The now hiding interpreter who spoke to DecceIT is happy to have his passport back and is now trying to get in touch with the Dutch authorities again. โ€œI get a call from Dutch numbers, but the lines are bad. When I try to call back, I dont get the right people on the phone and its very expensive too. Im sure the Netherlands still has local staff, let them call me. Then we can communicate easily. I wantinformation about the flights going now.โ€