MEP: Estonia must rescue interpreters in Afghanistan

MEP Marina Kaljurand (SDE).
MEP Marina Kaljurand (SDE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia must show humanity and rescue Afghans who have worked for Estonia, MEP and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Marina Kaljurand (SDE) told newspaper Postimees on Sunday. An Estonian NGO is also asking the government for asylum opportunities for its Afghan partners.

"The Taliban taking power in Afghanistan - it will start to affect us as well. And when I say us, I mean not only the European Union, but also Estonia," Kaljurand said, adding the situation in Afghanistan is only the beginning of the crisis.

She said in view of Afghan refugees moving through Central Asia and Russia, Estonia is very vulnerable.

"And I think a second thing that I would really expect from the government of the Republic of Estonia in the near future is a decision on how we protect and how we rescue the people who have worked for us in Afghanistan," she said.

Kaljurand explained she meant interpreters who worked with Estonian military personnel, as well as other civilians. Otherwise, it is likely they will be killed.

She said the international community has acted wrongly in the past, initially asking local people to cooperate with them and then leaving them in danger in their home countries, having failed to provide international protection, where they have been discriminated against and tortured after international forces have left.

"So maybe now we will finally learn and treat the people who have helped us humanely and allow them and their families to come to Estonia as refugees and guarantee them a normal life here," Kaljurand said.

Development aid NGO Mondo has sent a letter of appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking for asylum for six individuals and their families. The NGO has been working in Afghanistan since 2008 focusing primarily on women's health and girls' education.

"We believe this is our responsibility and the only way to ensure the safety of these people," the letter said. 

"Chaos reigns in Kabul and the situation changes in hours, if not minutes. We would like to thank all Mondo supporters who have contributed over the years to the development of Afghan society and the improvement of the situation of women and children. It is certainly not true to say that the Taliban's rise to power will erase this work or render it meaningless. Hopefully, the changes in society have been strong enough so that the new power will not be able to stamp them out once and for all," Mondo said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) told ERR on Monday that the government will discuss how to help people at risk in Afghanistan.

She said there is now a very high risk for people who have worked with the European Union, NATO or other aid organizations over the last twenty years to help Afghans rebuild their country.

She said Estonia should show solidarity with Europe and help the Afghans who have helped us in Kabul.

"Currently, we are clarifying the circumstances, what are the possibilities and how to organize these issues, and we are also making a decision at the government level," Liimets said.

Liimets said, as far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware, there are no Estonian nationals in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, the Taliban claimed victory in Afghanistan after taking over the capital Kabul, bringing to a swift end almost 20 years of a US-led coalition's presence in the country, the BBC reported. Estonia took part in the allied NATO mission for almost 18 years.

Estonia and Norway will raise Afghanistan's take over by the Taliban at the United Nations Security Council on Monday (August 16).


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Editor: Helen Wright

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