Catalonia welcomes 208 refugees who fled Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Minister criticizes "opaque" nature of Spanish evacuations for giving priority to army collaborators 

MPs stand to applaud Feridoon Aryan and his family, Afghan refugees. October 19, 2021 (by Maria Asmarat)
MPs stand to applaud Feridoon Aryan and his family, Afghan refugees. October 19, 2021 (by Maria Asmarat) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 19, 2021 05:27 PM

A total of 208 asylum seekers have arrived in Catalonia after fleeing from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to Equality and Feminism minister Tània Verge.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Verge criticized the "opaque" nature of Spain's evacuation operation in Afghanistan, which she said had given priority to people who had collaborated with the Spanish army. This despite the fact that the Catalan government and other groups had supplied the Spanish government with "a list of people at high risk" due to the Taliban's rise to power, as well as the names of relatives of Afghans already living in Catalonia.

The minister also voiced her disapproval at the current system, which she says leaves the Catalan government with hardly any ability to act, as refugee transfers are decided by the Spanish executive "based on unclear criteria and without prior consultation."

Parliament welcomes Afghan family

At the beginning of the parliamentary sitting, Verge, along with MP Ruben Wagensberg and speaker Laura Borràs, welcomed Afghan refugee Feridoon Aryan and his family, the first guests to attend a plenary session since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aryan was a Unicef spokesperson in Afghanistan and managed to reach Catalonia via Pakistan with the help of several politicians, including Verge.

A few weeks ago, Wagensberg traveled to Pakistan and gave Aryan letters from several parties – Esquerra, Junts, CUP and En Comú Podem – asking the Spanish ambassador to Pakistan to grant asylum to Afghan refugees. Aryan himself then had the opportunity to go to the Spanish embassy to deliver the letters.

Aryan, along with his wife and two children were given "the warmest of welcomes" by Borràs and a standing ovation from the vast majority of the chamber.