‘This afternoon, Afghanistan was struck by two brutal bomb attacks. Recent developments in Afghanistan have been dramatic, and the situation around the airport is dangerous. There is uncertainty and fear among the population about what will happen in the country next,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Over the past two weeks, Norway has been carrying out a complex evacuation operation under enormous time pressure, and during this period has evacuated close to 1 000 people from Kabul. Some 400 Norwegian citizens and people with close ties to Norway have now arrived in Norway. Locally employed Afghan members of staff and their families and a group of people with ties to the Norwegian Armed Forces are also being brought to Norway. In addition, Norway has evacuated other Afghan citizens who are in particular need of protection.
‘I strongly condemn the attack outside the airport today. It shows just how dangerous the situation is. I am very relieved that all Norwegian personnel are safe and accounted for,’ Ms Solberg said.
The evacuation operation has been led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close cooperation with other relevant ministries, the Norwegian Armed Forces, the Norwegian police, the immigration and health authorities, the child welfare services, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufetat), the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) and Ullensaker municipality. Close cooperation has also been established with other relevant allies and the Georgian authorities.
‘We have said from the outset that we only had a short window of opportunity for the evacuation and that we could not guarantee that we would manage to help everyone seeking to leave Afghanistan. This afternoon we have sent a message to Norwegian citizens in the country informing them that, unfortunately, it is no longer possible to get more people into the airport for evacuation, because the airport gates are now closed. We can therefore no longer offer assistance with evacuation. We have been working 24/7 to evacuate as many as we can. This includes Norwegian citizens, people holding a valid Norwegian residence permit, and Afghans in need of protection, and our personnel in Kabul and Oslo are doing a tremendous job of helping people in a very dramatic situation. Now all our efforts will be focused on evacuating those who have already gained entry to the airport,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
As early as June, the Government decided that civil society actors, human rights defenders, especially women, and journalists would be priority groups for receiving protection as refugees.
‘I am very pleased that we have succeeded in bringing dozens of people in these at-risk groups and their families to Norway,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
Norwegian forces are still present at the airport. The Norwegian Armed Forces are monitoring the situation closely, and are implementing the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all Norwegian personnel. This is being done in close cooperation with US forces. The Norwegian field hospital has provided medical assistance at the airport, and will remain operational for as long as possible.
‘Other countries have announced today that they are now bringing their forces home from Kabul. We are also making the necessary preparations to conclude Norway’s military contribution. Our Norwegian personnel are doing an outstanding job in a very difficult situation, and they are working tirelessly, around the clock. They will continue to do so until they too have to return to Norway,’ said Minister of Defence Frank Bakke-Jensen.
There are still Norwegian citizens in Afghanistan who want to leave the country. There are also other individuals in need of protection who are still in Afghanistan.
‘Even though we are now entering a new phase following the closure of the airport, we will continue to try to provide assistance to Norwegian citizens and others with close ties to Norway. We are aware that the people of Afghanistan are living in a state of fear and desperation. The crisis management team in Oslo will continue to work around the clock and will be expanded,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.