First batch of Afghans return to Kabul on Iran flight

These Afghan nationals were mainly people who had come to India for business or medical treatment before August 15 — when Kabul fell to the Taliban — and were desperate to go home.

Even as many Afghan nationals are waiting to get out of the Taliban-ruled country, a total of 106 Afghans stranded in India since August 15 returned to their country in a special flight over the weekend – the first batch of Afghan citizens in India who have gone back on their free will.

These Afghan nationals were mainly people who had come to India for business or medical treatment before August 15 — when Kabul fell to the Taliban — and were desperate to go home.

“These Afghan nationals were in a very difficult situation as their finances had run out, and did not even have enough money to pay for their fooding and lodging,” an Afghan diplomat told The Sunday Express. Many of them were also worried about their family members who were in Afghanistan, and are facing hardship back home after the Taliban captured power.

“They were stuck between a rock and a hard place,” the Afghan diplomat said, referring to their dire financial situation in India and the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where the food and medicine crisis is looming large.

As they approached the Afghan embassy over the last few weeks and wanted to go home, the embassy had reached out to India to allow them to go back on a flight. But that was taking time.

The Afghan embassy also reached out to the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi for visas so that they return via Pakistan’s land route. Finally, the Afghan embassy turned to Iran’s embassy who facilitated their travel in the Mahan Air flight, an Iranian airline.

“The Afghan nationals had to pay for the flight, but they went back via Tehran,” the diplomat said. “There are about 1,000 people estimated to be in India who may want to return to Afghanistan. We are trying to facilitate as much as possible.”

Several hundred Afghan nationals, who had come to India for a variety of reasons, are waiting to return. “We expect more such flights in the coming weeks for the return of the stranded Afghans,” he said.

This comes a month after the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority under the new Taliban regime had written to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking resumption of flights operated by its airlines Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airline to and from Delhi. The Indian government is yet to take a call on this issue.

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