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Crisis in Afghanistan: The long road that lies ahead for the Afghans arriving in Spain | International

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They are arriving in Spain in a state of “extreme exhaustion,” and carrying just the few belongings that they could carry with them amid the chaos of Kabul. The Afghans being flown in recent days by the Spanish government to the Torrejón de Ardoz air base in Madrid are also worried about the families that they are leaving behind, according to the organizations that are assisting with their arrival and the Spanish defense minister, Margarita Robles.

Despite having escaped their home country, since it was taken over by the Taliban, Ahead of them awaits a challenging process, which will involve further travel and a wait that will last months until their requests for protection are resolved. These processes often take longer than the legal limits, although on Monday, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska confirmed that the asylum requests would be dealt with as “special” and would be processed “urgently.”

Once their documents have been processed, they are then given a special residency permit for a 15-day period

Of the more than 800 people who have been airlifted to Spain from Afghanistan since Monday – by Tuesday afternoon the figure had risen to 1,100, and a further 130 were due to arrive in the early hours of today – 613 had already requested international protection, according to data supplied today by the Interior Ministry.

Figures from the OAR asylum and refugee office, which belongs to the aforementioned ministry, show that last year – during the Covid-19 pandemic – just 34 Afghans requested protection in Spain, 0.04% of the total. In 2019 that figure was 182, and in 2018 it was 101.

The same data show that the rate of acceptance for Afghan asylum seekers in Spain was 74%, a percentage that is in stark contrast to the 5% average for all requests filed.

On arrival in Torrejón, the Afghans are first given a coronavirus test. Once their documents have been processed, they are then given a special residency permit for a 15-day period. Those who request international protection are then given an appointment at the nearest police station in the region to which they will be transferred so that the request can be formalized, before being sent to the OAR.

According to normal procedures, after a month they must be informed as to whether their request has been accepted for processing. If it has, the authorities have six months to decide whether to grant them refugee status or subsidiary protection or reject the request. If their application is accepted, and more than six months have passed without a response, the applicants are allowed to work in Spain.

While the asylum process is managed by the Interior Ministry, their shelter once in Spain is organized by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration. According to the latest figures supplied on Monday by the minister, José Luis Escrivá, by Tuesday of this week a total of 289 Afghans who worked with the Spanish authorities and their families were due to have been transferred to state centers, which have capacity for 10,000 people. Sources from the department report that ahead of the arrival of the first aircraft from Kabul, 6,000 of these places were already occupied.

On Monday, the ministry pointed to the speed with which the refugees were being moved from the temporary accommodation that has been set up in Torrejón, bringing down the time that the evacuees are spending there to 48 hours. Up until Monday, 230 people had been distributed among nine of Spain’s regions: Aragón (29), Castilla-La Mancha (24), Castilla y León (28), Catalonia (10), Valencia (37), Madrid (32), Murcia (34), Navarre (7) and the Basque Country (9) (The total is lower than 230 given that the data of some of the refugees is yet to be processed).

The organizations working on the ground have updated lists with the arrivals at the air base and the number of people on board each aircraft. From there, forecasts are made of the spaces that will be needed within the state system and interviews begin in order to assess where each should be sent.

Those seeking international protection are being managed by organizations such as the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR) and the Red Cross, among others. “The system already has high occupation levels,” explained Áliva Díez, state shelter coordinator for the CEAR. Up until Tuesday, the organization had attended to 90 people, most of them “family units of between six and nine members,” she added.

English version by Simon Hunter.



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Brexit: British Embassy launches survey on key issues affecting UK nationals in Spain | Brexit | International

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The British Embassy in Madrid has launched a survey aimed at finding out how UK nationals in Spain have been affected by key issues, in particular, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, a process commonly known as Brexit.

The poll is for Britons who are full-time residents in Spain (not those with second homes) and are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, i.e. they were officially registered in the country before December 31, 2020, when the so-called Transition Period came to an end.

Questions in the survey address issues such as access to healthcare and the uptake of the TIE residency cards, which were introduced as a replacement for green residency cards (either the credit-card size or the A4 sheet version, officially known as the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

As we approach a year since the end of the Transition Period, we really want to hear from you about the key issues…

Posted by Brits in Spain on Friday, September 17, 2021

The aim of the poll is to gather vital information on the experience of UK nationals living in Spain that will help the British Embassy provide feedback to Spanish authorities. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, and all answers are confidential.

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.



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‘The challenge for us now is drought, not war’: livelihoods of millions of Afghans at risk | Global development

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The war in Afghanistan might be over but farmers in Kandahar’s Arghandab valley face a new enemy: drought.

It has hardly rained for two years, a drought so severe that some farmers are questioning how much longer they can live off the land.

Mohammed Rahim, 30, grew up working on a farm along with his father and grandfather in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s southern province. Famous for its fruit and vegetables, the area is known as the bread basket of Kandahar.

Like most in the valley, Rahim’s family relies solely on farming. “The fighting has just stopped. Peace has returned,” Rahim says. “But now we face another war: drought.

“Now we have to dig deep to pump water out of the land. It has been two years, there has been little rain and we have a drought here. I don’t know if our coming generations can rely on farming the way our ancestors used to do.”

Pir Mohammed, 60, has been a farmer for more than four decades. “Not long ago, there were water channels flowing into the farm and we were providing the remaining water to other farmers,” says Mohammed. “Before, the water was running after us, flowing everywhere – but now we are running after water.”

The water used to come free from the river but now the daily diesel cost for the water pump is at least 2,500 Afghani (£21).

“We don’t make any profit. We are in loss, rather. Instead, we are using our savings. But we don’t have any other option as we do it for survival,” says Mohammed. “However, the scarcity of water has affected the quality of crops as well.”

About 70% of Afghans live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought.

Last week, Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said severe drought was affecting 7.3 million people in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

He warned: “If agriculture collapses further, it will drive up malnutrition, increase displacement and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Arghandab has been a favourite destination for farming because of the abundance of water and fertile lands. Neikh Mohammed, 40, left the Dand district of Kandahar to work in Arghandab in 2005. When he arrived he was amazed to see the greenery and pomegranate farms.

A dam affected by drought in Kandahar.
A dried up dam in Kandahar. A majority of Afghans are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought, as they live in rural areas. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“It used to rain a lot here and we could not cross the river and come into our farms. We had a life with abundant water. But the past is another country now,” he says.

According to a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, many local farmers were caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. The Taliban carried out attacks from thick foliage on the farms, which provided a hiding place, ideal for an ambush.

“For the past 20 years, we did not have peace and could not work after dark in our farms. But now we can stay as long as we want without any fear,” says Neikh Mohammed. “Now the challenge is not just restoring peace but the drought and escalating cost of essential commodities.”

Farmers say they want support from international aid agencies and assistance from the new government headed by the Taliban to help them survive.

Pir Mohammed says: “The real challenge for us now is drought, not war. We need food, water, dams and infrastructure in our country. The world should invest in us and save us.”

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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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