The SWISS charter flight to Tashkent took off from Zurich on Monday 22 August, and returned to Zurich Airport shortly after 1am today. On board were 219 people, including 141 local SDC staff and their immediate families, as well as 78 passengers of Afghan, German and Swedish nationality. With this flight, Switzerland has made a tangible contribution to the international community's evacuation efforts.
The Swiss embassy in Islamabad, which provides consular services for Afghanistan, is also in regular contact with the 15 Swiss nationals still in Afghanistan. Switzerland is working hard to ensure that they can also leave the country.
Evacuees from Afghanistan placed in federal asylum centres
The evacuees who arrived in Switzerland this morning completed all the required checks at the airport (passport controls and body and luggage searches), and have been assigned to different federal asylum centres. Care has been taken to keep families together. All of the evacuees were tested for COVID-19. Two of them were ordered to self-isolate after testing positive.
A first security check was already carried out when the persons concerned were recruited by the FDFA. A second check was carried out by the Federal Intelligence Service before the SEM issued them with a humanitarian visa. This check did not reveal any security-relevant information affecting the evacuees' admission to Switzerland. If necessary, a third check will be carried out at the federal asylum centre. The families will probably spend several weeks in the asylum centres before they are assigned to accommodation in the various cantons.
Admission to Switzerland's resettlement programme
132 of those who have arrived in Switzerland so far will be admitted to Switzerland's resettlement programme. They will be accorded refugee status and will be allowed to stay in Switzerland. As resettlement refugees, they will not complete the regular asylum procedure, and will only have to undergo identity checks (fingerprinting, security checks, etc.). Once they arrive in the cantons, all of the refugees will take part in a cantonal integration programme. The Federal Council has already approved a quota of 1,900 resettlement refugees for the 2022–23 period.
Switzerland concerned about the situation in Afghanistan
Switzerland today took part in a special session on Afghanistan at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It expressed deep concern about the attacks on human rights defenders and minorities, and stressed the importance of independent investigations into human rights violations.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains of great concern. The high levels of violence have greatly added to the hardships faced by people in Afghanistan and forced many to flee in search of safety and protection. In response to this situation, Switzerland intends to pursue its commitments even in the current context.
The FDFA is currently examining several appeals for assistance from major international organisations. In the coming days, it will decide how best to help the Afghan people, who are in a situation of great humanitarian need. Of Afghanistan's 38 million inhabitants, 18 million currently depend on humanitarian aid. This figure has doubled since the beginning of the year.
While it is essential to respond with short-term humanitarian relief, it is also important to consider the medium and long term. Finally, at the diplomatic level, Switzerland is also prepared to provide good offices as a host state, as part of an international conference or by facilitating talks between the parties.