The Spanish government has officially concluded its evacuation operation from Afghanistan. The last two flights, two A400M military planes, arrived this morning in Dubai from Kabul, according to the Defense Ministry. The last 81 Spaniards who were still in the Afghan capital were on board, and included military personnel, police officers and staff from the embassy. All of them are due to arrive at the air base in Torrejón de Ardoz at 4.45pm on an Air Europa flight from Dubai.
Warnings from a number of Western countries of an imminent terrorist attack at Kabul airport came to pass yesterday, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside the site. A second bomb went off at a nearby hotel. Dozens were killed, including 13 US soldiers, according to the Pentagon. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for the atrocities.
The Spanish operation to evacuate Afghan nationals from Kabul airport had been due to end later today. By Thursday, more than 1,900 people had been flown to, and processed at, the provisional facilities installed at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base in Madrid.
According to data supplied by the Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations Ministry, which is in charge of the mission, a total of 1,584 people had been received at the base. On Thursday evening, a further 95 passengers arrived on a flight chartered by the European External Action Service (EEAS), followed by an Air Europa flight carrying a further 240 Afghans who had worked with Western authorities in recent years and thus were at risk from the Taliban, who have taken over the Asian country in the wake of the withdrawal of US troops.
Of the arrivals, 726 were women and 858 men, while 631 minors were also received. Of all of the evacuees flown to Torrejón, 185 had worked with the European Union, and 177 of them were due to have been transferred to other EU states by Thursday evening. Another 131 had worked with the United States, all of whom had also been transferred. The average time that the evacuees have spent at the Madrid air base is 37 hours.
Of the asylum seekers, 759 have already been transferred to 14 of Spain’s regions
According to the latest figures from the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for processing international protection requests via the Asylum and Refugee Office, 1,340 people requested this status. These requests will be formalized in the coming days at the closest police station in the areas where the applicants are sent. The state shelter system has a total of 10,000 public places, but the government is planning to increase capacity to 15,000 by 2024, with investment of €174 million.
Of the asylum seekers, 759 have already been transferred to 14 of Spain’s regions, and a further 125 were due to join them on Thursday evening. Andalusia has received 49 people, Aragón 52, Asturias 32, the Balearic Islands three, Castilla y León 121, Castilla-La Mancha 31, Catalonia 121, Valencia 57, Extremadura 14, Galicia 18, Madrid 68, Murcia 41, Navarre 29 and the Basque Country 60. The total figure includes 63 people who are yet to be registered in the data supplied by official sources.
The Spanish shelter system counts on a program that lasts between 18 and 24 months, and includes two phases. The first involves temporary shelter, whether in ministry centers or in apartments managed by organizations such as the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) or the Red Cross. The second involves preparation for autonomy, during which families will be able to rent their own homes once their asylum request has been approved. The plan includes financial assistance to pay rent and cover basic needs, as well as offering social, legal and psychological advice, if necessary, as well as Spanish classes, professional training and assessment for seeking work.
In order to keep spaces open ahead of possible new arrivals in Torrejón, the Spanish government was planning to house the evacuees that arrived on the EEAS flights on Thursday in hotels, as was revealed by online daily El Confidencial and later confirmed by sources from the Secretary of State for Migrations.
From there, and in conjunction with consular services, they will continue their journey on to other EU states to be taken in, given that these are not people seeking asylum in Spain.
The Inclusion Ministry is also planning to transfer some of the families of Afghans who worked with Spanish authorities and who arrived on the flight on Thursday from Dubai to hotels. The same sources reported that these will be the most vulnerable families – for example, those with babies, people with mobility problems or seniors.
English version by Simon Hunter.
El Salvador ‘responsible for death of woman jailed after miscarriage’ | Global development
The Inter-American court of human rights has ruled that El Salvador was responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby when she suffered a miscarriage.
The court has ordered the Central American country to reform its draconian policies on reproductive health.
The decision on Tuesday marked the first time an international court has ruled on El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and was celebrated by women’s rights activists, who believe it could open doors for change across the region.
Since 1998, abortion in El Salvador has been banned without exception, even in cases of rape and incest. Over the past two decades, more than 180 women have been jailed for murder for having an abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies, according to rights groups.
The case of Manuela v El Salvador was brought after the 33-year-old mother of two from the countryside died from cancer after receiving inadequate medical diagnosis and treatment, leaving her two children orphaned. She had been serving a 30-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide after a miscarriage.
When Manuela – whose full name has never been made public in El Salvador – went to the hospital after miscarrying, staff failed to provide her with timely treatment and instead subjected her to verbal abuse and accused her of having an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Manuela was handcuffed to her bed and denied access to a lawyer while police interrogated her.
“There is no doubt that Manuela suffered an obstetric emergency,” the landmark court ruling stated. “Such situations, as they are medical conditions, cannot lead to a criminal sanction.”
The court also ruled that the state must pay reparations to Manuela’s family, and should develop comprehensive sexual education policies and guarantee doctor-patient confidentiality.
“The Inter-American court has done justice by recognising Manuela was another victim of an unjust legal context that originates in the absolute prohibition of abortion,” said Morena Herrera, at the Feminist Collective for Local Development, one of the parties in the case supporting Manuela’s family.
“Manuela’s story is a sad one, but it represents a change and becomes a path of justice and hope for all women in Latin America and the Caribbean who are criminalised for obstetric events.”
Most countries in the region respect the Inter-American court’s jurisdiction, opening the door for sweeping change, activists said.
“This is a huge advance for reproductive rights, not only in El Salvador but across Latin America,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, another party in the case. “This is a standard we can apply to the constitutions and states across the region.”
Martínez Coral added that while the ruling was to be celebrated, the issue of poverty affecting access to reproductive rights remained a challenge.
“There are over 180 cases of women in jail, or that have been jailed, over these issues,” said Martínez Coral, who also worked as a litigator on the case against the Salvadorean state.
“What that means is we’re dealing with a state that criminalises women and, above all, criminalises poor women in the most rural and impoverished areas,” she said.
EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems
The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a proposal to digitalise EU cross-border justice systems, aiming at making them more accessible and effective. Under the new draft law, the EU executive wants to tackle inefficiencies affecting cross-border judicial cooperation and barriers to access to justice in cross-border cases. Shifting paper-based communications to electronic formats would save up to €25m per year across the EU in postage and paper costs.
Covid limits migration despite more people displaced by war and disasters | Global development
The coronavirus pandemic had a radical effect on migration, limiting movement despite increasing levels of internal displacement from conflict and climate disasters, the UN’s International Organization for Migration said in a report on Wednesday.
Though the number of people who migrated internationally increased to 281 million in 2020 – 9 million more than before Covid-19 – the number was 2 million lower than expected without a pandemic, according to the report.
“We are witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history,” said IOM director general, António Vitorino. “While billions of people have been effectively grounded by Covid-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries.”
Internal displacement caused by violence, conflict and disasters increased to 40.5 million from 31.5 million. Globally, the IOM said governments implemented a total of 108,000 restrictions on international travel, alongside internal restrictions on movement, disrupting migration during the pandemic.
Prior to the report’s release, Vitorino told IOM member states on Monday that international cooperation was needed to ensure people were not stripped of the option of migrating when they needed to.
He also pointed out that people from countries with low levels of vaccination could be excluded from emigrating. “We must acknowledge the deep impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had for people on the move: people stranded in transit, families separated across borders, migrants left unemployed but unable to afford the return home,” said Vitorino.
“The resulting complex patchwork of measures, frequently changing in scope and application, has placed a chilling effect on cross-border mobility, particularly for those unvaccinated.”
The report said conditions were particularly harsh for people from developing countries working in the Middle East and south-east Asia, with the pandemic affecting their incomes and housing, while they were also often excluded from access to healthcare and welfare.
However, the feared 20% drop in remittances – which can be a key lifeline to poor families during crises – that was predicted by the World Bank in April 2020 did not materialise and had been much lower, at 2.4%. This might be partly related to people being forced to send money to their families through formal routes, the report suggested, because options such as carrying cash were blocked off, as well as many working in jobs on the frontline of the pandemic that continued despite lockdowns.
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