Last Swiss cooperation office staff to leave Kabul

Internally displaced Afghans from northern province take refuge in a public park Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, August 13, 2021 Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Switzerland says it will withdraw its remaining Swiss staff in Afghanistan, given the worsening security situation there.

This content was published on August 13, 2021 - 18:19
Swiss authorities/Keystone-SDA/Reuters/AP/SWI

At a press conference arranged in the Swiss capital Bern on Friday evening, State Secretary Livia Leu said that all Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) staff would be moved. She said that three Swiss citizens were currently working at the cooperation office in Kabul, following earlier reductions (three have already left). The FDFA confirmed to SWI on Friday night that the three would be transferred as soon as possible to another country.

The almost 40 local staff and their families would also be given the opportunity to request a humanitarian visa in Switzerland, she added.

Switzerland does not have an embassy in Kabul, but a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) cooperation office and consular agencyExternal link. The SDC cooperation office runs and supervises a CHF27 million ($29.3 million) development and humanitarian aid programme (2019 -2022). The Swiss embassy in Pakistan covers Afghanistan.

Leu said she could not give logistic details as to how the repatriations would take place.       

Other countries

Leu said the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and the number of victims of the conflict was rising daily. She called on the parties concerned to find a political solution, highlighting the humanitarian situation and the protection of minorities and women.

The Taliban have captured Afghanistan's second biggest city of Kandahar, officials said on Friday, the biggest setback for the US-backed government since the insurgents launched a new offensive. The insurgents are now said to be approaching Kabul.

Other countries have already announced that they would be removing diplomats. The Pentagon has said it would send about 3,000 extra troops within 48 hours to help evacuate US embassy staff.

Britain has said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its citizens leave, while other embassies and aid groups they too were getting their people out. Swiss neighbour Germany will reduce diplomatic staff to an absolute minimum, it was announced on Friday

Suspended repatriations

On Thursday Switzerland said it had suspended repatriations to Afghanistan “until further notice owing to the changed situation in the country”.

Afghanistan had asked Switzerland at the beginning of July to postpone the repatriation of rejected asylum-seekers for three months due to the advance of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban and the Covid-19 pandemic. Aid organisations had long demanded that Switzerland stop repatriations to Afghanistan.

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