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France evacuated a further 216 people from crisis-hit Afghanistan overnight Tuesday, as President Emmanuel Macron sought to defend comments warning that Europe would need to mobilise against an influx of migrants.
Among those flown to Abu Dhabi, where France has a military air base, were 25 French nationals, 184 Afghans "from civil society in need of protection" and 7 citizens of other nations, the French Foreign Ministry said.
People evacuated from Kabul as part of an “air bridge” with the United Arab Emirates are then flown by passenger plane to Paris. The first lot of evacuees landed in the French capital late Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates confirmed in a statement that Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani had also been flown to Abu Dhabi with his family.
Countries from across the world have been scrambling to evacuate diplomats, humanitarians, journalists and others since Taliban militants took control of Kabul on Sunday.
"The situation at Kabul airport remains very chaotic and access to the airport is extremely difficult," said French Defence Minister Florence Parly, adding that ongoing evacuation efforts would depend on France securing landing slots.
"It's important that we help those who are facing immediate threats, to settle in EU member states," Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs told the press following a meeting with EU interior ministers on Wednesday afternoon.
On an international level, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced that an emergency video conference with foreign ministers of member nations would be held on Friday.
"I have convened an extraordinary virtual meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers this Friday 20 August to continue our close coordination and discuss our common approach on Afghanistan," he tweeted on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Macron has accused critics of “hijacking” comments he made on Monday warning that France and other EU countries needed a “robust plan” to protect themselves from “irregular migratory flows” from Afghanistan.
“What I said … words which some people have twisted: France does and will continue to do its duty to protect those who are in the most danger,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
French daily Libération said the president had been “blinded by his cynical political calculations”, while Afghanistan’s ambassador in Paris said he “expected much more from France” as a member of the UN Security Council, whose role was the protection nations under threat.
So far some 800 Afghan translators, cooks and others who helped French troops over the years have been taken to French territory.
Already most asylum applications in France come from Afghan citizens, with more than 10,000 requests filed in 2020.