Swiss staff evacuated from SDC cooperation office in Kabul

Press release, 16.08.2021

Switzerland is concerned about the grave security situation in Afghanistan. Given the events of the last few days, the FDFA has temporarily closed the cooperation office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and had its Swiss staff flown out of Kabul. On 16 August 2021, the three remaining staff members landed in Doha. They will travel to Switzerland from there as soon as possible. Three other staff members had already left Kabul. Efforts are under way to find a solution for local personnel so that the FDFA's local employees and their immediate families can also leave Afghanistan.

Last Friday evening, FDFA State Secretary Livia Leu informed the media that three of the six Swiss staff members of the SDC's cooperation office in Kabul had left the country. At the weekend, the remaining three transferable staff members also left Afghanistan. They were included in the evacuation planning of the German embassy and, together with other international personnel, were flown out on Sunday on a US military plane to Doha, where they landed in the early morning of 16 August 2021. They will return to Switzerland as soon as possible.

Switzerland intends to maintain its international cooperation programmes

On Sunday morning, the SDC had also temporarily closed its cooperation office, as the office cannot carry out its mandate under the current circumstances. It remains to be seen when the SDC will resume its work on the ground. According to SDC Director General Patricia Danzi, there are many needs within Afghanistan and in the surrounding areas and the SDC is examining how it can meet these needs with local and international partners. Current and future programmes will be adapted accordingly. "We will maintain our commitment to Afghanistan in the future," Danzi told the media last Friday.

Local employees still on the ground

The 348 local employees of the cooperation office have not yet been able to leave the country. Together with the FDJP and external partners, the FDFA is working intensively to find solutions for the local employees and their immediate family members. The approximately 230 people concerned will receive a humanitarian visa for Switzerland, as State Secretary for Migration Mario Gattiker explained to the media on Friday. The persons to be transferred to Switzerland will be included in the resettlement quota and granted asylum after their entry. In May 2019, the Federal Council established this quota, allowing up to 1,500–2,000 refugees to resettle in Switzerland per two-year period. After their arrival in Switzerland, the 230 individuals concerned will initially be transferred to the various federal asylum centres, where they will be housed and receive support.

The Afghan employees of the cooperation office could be considered Western collaborators by the Taliban and are therefore at risk to life and limb. However, the current situation in Kabul, particularly at the city's airport, makes it difficult for the local employees to leave the country. In this matter, the FDFA is in constant contact with its employees on the ground.
 
In addition, the Swiss embassy in Pakistan, which has consular responsibility for Afghanistan, is in contact with Swiss nationals who are in Afghanistan. 26 Swiss citizens are registered with the embassy in Islamabad. Those citizens who need assistance to leave Afghanistan should immediately contact the Swiss embassy in Islamabad (islamabad@eda.admin.ch, tel: +92 300 856 4052).

Switzerland is concerned about the situation in Afghanistan

Switzerland is concerned about the grave security situation in Afghanistan. The high level of violence contributes significantly to the suffering of the Afghan population and increases the number of displaced persons in search of safety and protection. Switzerland condemns the alleged violations of international law, including alleged crimes under international law, and urges all actors involved to abide by international humanitarian law and to respect human rights. Special attention should be paid to guaranteeing the rights of minorities and those of women and girls. Afghan and foreign citizens who wish to leave must be able to do so freely and unhindered; roads, airports and border crossings must remain open for this purpose. In particular, people must also be allowed to take flights leaving Afghanistan from Kabul's airport safely and without any discrimination.


Further information:

Press conference of 13 August 2021 with State Secretary Livia Leu (FDFA), State Secretary Mario Gattiker (State Secretariat for Migration) and Ambassador Patricia Danzi (SDC)
FDFA travel advice concerning Afghanistan
Travel advice explained in brief, in German/French/Italian


Address for enquiries:

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel. Communication service: +41 58 462 31 53
Tel. Press service: +41 58 460 55 55
E-mail: kommunikation@eda.admin.ch
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Publisher:

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs