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Afghans stranded in India after Taliban takeover now returning home via Iran, Pakistan

Many Afghan nationals have already left for Afghanistan through Lahore and Tehran but there are still 600 to 700 nationals stranded in India and in financial straits.

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New Delhi: While the world is focused on the evacuation of citizens from Afghanistan fearing their fate under the Taliban regime, there are several other Afghan nationals who are stranded across the world, including in India, and are waiting to go home

Last week, former prime minister of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who was based in India, went back to Kabul through the Wagah Border. He left along with his wife and son and their travel was facilitated by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi in consultation with the Indian government, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.

Ahmadzai had served as the acting PM of Afghanistan from 1995-1996 under the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. He was living in exile since the Taliban came to power in that country in 1996.

Since the fall of Kabul on 15 August 2021, the Pakistan government has issued around 50 visas to Afghans living in India and will be processing more on a case to case basis, said sources in the Pakistan government.

They added that the Pakistan government has also facilitated the transport of the mortal remains eight Afghan nationals through the Attari-Wagah border.

Meanwhile, about 106 Afghan people, who came to India mostly for medical reasons before the Taliban came to power, were sent back to their homes Saturday through Iran’s Mahan Air with a stopover in Tehran. Mahan Air is operating regular flights from Tehran to Kabul.

“We expect more such flights in the coming weeks to return all the stranded Afghans,” Abdulhaq Azad, Press Secretary, Afghanistan Embassy said in a tweet.

Some of them, sources said, had come under severe financial stress and were “thrown out” of their rented flats in New Delhi as they could not pay those for months.

Ever since the Taliban came back to power, Afghanistan’s economy has come to a standstill.

The war-ravaged country, which was already under financial stress, is now witnessing people selling their household items since jobs have come to an end, salaries have stopped and poverty levels are soaring with no international aid yet.

One such Afghan national who is stranded in India told ThePrint that the situation in his home country has gotten much worse.

“While the situation back home has become much worse than how we left it back when we came here six months ago, we have no choice but to leave India since we have our houses there and families there who want us to come back. Besides, we are not getting help even here in India. So we want to go back as soon as possible,” said the Afghan national, who did not wish to be named.

Also read: 736 Afghans recorded for new registration between 1 August-11 September, UNHCR says

Around 600-700 Afghans still waiting to go back

According to Afghan diplomatic sources, as many as 600-700 people have registered with the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi to return to their home country.

Coordination between the embassy, Pakistan High Commission and Iran Embassy along with the Indian government is going on to facilitate the travel of these people, sources said.

An arrangement was made, they said, to send batches of 25 people daily through the Wagah border but Pakistan has allegedly turned down the proposal.

The Afghan embassy, therefore, has now worked out a deal with Mahan Air to send the remaining people. However, the tickets are priced at around $700 to $850 (approx. Rs 52,500 to Rs 63,000) and cannot be afforded by many.

The embassy has also put in a request with the Indian government to start chartered flights from Delhi to Kabul to send these people back home. However, a confirmed decision has not been taken yet.

Also read: What does the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan mean for the future of Afghan migrants?


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