21 August 2021
Von der Leyen: “The 1 billion in humanitarian aid is conditional on human rights”.
The President of the European Commission visits the Torrejón base, together with Sánchez and Michel
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, during their visit to the Torrejón de Ardoz base (Madrid). JUAN MEDINA REUTERS
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, accompanied by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, is visiting the camp set up at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base (Madrid), which serves as a port of arrival for Afghans evacuated from Kabul.
Sánchez and the European leaders have visited the provisional camp set up by the Military Emergency Unit (UME), an event in which the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, and of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, are also taking part. The visit of the European leaders and Sánchez, who is making his first public appearance this Saturday after spending a few days on holiday in Lanzarote and since the outbreak of the crisis in Afghanistan, has aroused great media expectation, with dozens of accredited media waiting to follow a joint press conference.
Von der Leyen thanked the Spanish government for offering to coordinate the arrival of refugees in the European Union: “Spain has shown its humanity and its sense of duty. It is an example of the soul of Europe”. Michel also thanked the President: “Thanks to your leadership we have been able to show that the European project is based on humanitarian values. It was important to demonstrate this clarity in solidarity, to defend everything we have done in recent years”.
For his part, Sánchez praised the work of the staff who are assisting the refugees, as well as the state security forces and the foreign service. “We have to be with Europe through thick and thin, through thick and thin,” the leader insisted.
The provisional camp in Torrejón has a capacity for 1,000 people and has areas for games and recreation for the minors, as well as others for recovery and rest for the families until they leave the facilities for the reception place that will be assigned to them in the protection system.
The President of the Government reiterated that these 20 years of mission in Afghanistan have not been in vain: “Thanks to this work, a certain prosperity has been guaranteed. When we arrived, in some provinces there were no hospitals, clinics or roads. We have ensured access to clean water. In short, we have sown, and we hope that in the future this will translate into greater prosperity for the Afghan people. This idea was also supported by Von der Leyen, who commented that “in these years it has been possible to have access to education, this is not in vain, and this is what we have to protect”.
In this line, the President of the European Commission declared that humanitarian aid in Afghanistan must continue, but she was categorical: “The 1,000 million euros of the budget we have for humanitarian aid are conditional on respect for human rights. Not one euro of humanitarian aid can be given to anyone who does not guarantee women’s rights. Von der Leyen explained that talks with the Taliban are taking place merely on operational matters, such as the arrival at the airport of people wishing to leave the country, but that in no case have there been political talks and there has been no official recognition. “We will listen to the words of the Taliban, but we will be guided by their actions,” he concluded.
The leaders were able to visit a facility that is organised around a protocolised circuit for the families: a space for identification, antigen tests and referral circuits in cases of positive covid tests – although for the moment all have been negative – information on asylum procedures and health care. The distribution is differentiated for the women and their children, who are housed in family modules with a capacity for 500 people installed by the Military Emergency Unit (UME), while the men are in two rooms with a capacity for 200 people in bunk beds. All spaces are air-conditioned. In addition, there is a dining room for 200 people, with toilets and showers and a recreation area for children and another for adults.
So far, four planes have arrived at the Torrejón base with Afghan evacuees, two from the Spanish Armed Forces, with 48 and 110 Afghans on board, respectively, and another two operated by other European countries, one from France with 38 Afghans and another from Italy, with another thirty or so people. The Afghans are expected to remain in the temporary camp for up to 72 hours before being transferred to state reception centres, in the case of those seeking asylum in Spain, or to other countries.
In addition, in the last few hours, a Spanish plane with 110 people on board evacuated from Afghanistan has landed in Dubai from Kabul airport, sources from the Ministry of Defence have informed Efe. The evacuees could be transferred to Torrejón this Saturday.