August 19, 2022

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Foreign UN Staffers Are Evacuating Afghanistan. Local Staffers Say They Have Been Left Behind.

As the Taliban swept to energy final week, Afghans working for the United Nations watched as a lot of their international colleagues obtained on planes to depart the nation.

But their very own more and more determined pleas for assist getting out — or at the least for someplace secure to remain if the Taliban targets them for his or her work for a world group — are being ignored, in line with interviews and emails seen by BuzzFeed News.

Angry present and former staffers mentioned the UN, which has operated in Afghanistan since 2002, appeared to haven’t any plan for its workers of hundreds of Afghan nationals to depart the nation and has given them few alternate options however to hunker down at house whereas militants could also be trying to find them.

In cellphone calls and texts, 4 Afghan nationals who work for the UN informed BuzzFeed News the UN has not provided them safe housing in Kabul, leaving some looking for shelter with relations. They identified that Afghan nationals who work for the UN tackle far larger dangers within the nation for much less pay than their worldwide colleagues, and their work may put them in hurt’s means. Reuters reported on Tuesday that Taliban fighters had ransacked a number of UN compounds since its gorgeous sweep to energy final week.

“They are very, very visible in communities,” mentioned a former worldwide UN staffer who requested anonymity. “The Taliban know exactly who these people are.”

The UN didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark.

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the secretary-general, mentioned in an Aug. 18 press convention that the UN couldn’t simply evacuate Afghan nationals from the nation as a result of it’s “not a nation that issues visas.”

He added that the UN is doing its “utmost” for nationwide workers and their households. “There are all sorts of administrative hurdles that have to be negotiated and discussed,” Dujarric mentioned. “But the national staff is very much on the forefront of what we are trying to do every day.”

The group has about 300 worldwide workers members and three,000 Afghan nationwide workers in Afghanistan, working for the UN’s mission within the nation in addition to companies such because the UN Development Program and UN Women. The group mentioned on Aug. 18 that about 100 of these worldwide workers would quickly depart for Kazakhstan.

The UN-focused information web site PassBlue reported on Friday that Afghan nationals working for the group felt “alone and petrified.” New particulars on this story about Afghan staffers pleading to no avail for assist hiding from the Taliban — whilst one heard phrase that militants had been in his neighborhood asking the place he was — elevate additional questions on whether or not the UN adequately deliberate to guard native workers because the Taliban ramped up their army offensive in opposition to the Afghan authorities beginning in May.

“They’ve had months to prepare for this,” the previous worldwide staffer mentioned.

One Afghan staffer, who works within the operations division of a UN company, mentioned he and his colleagues repeatedly introduced up the difficulty of evacuations within the chat field of a Zoom assembly with colleagues and superiors final week, however acquired no response. (BuzzFeed News is withholding figuring out particulars of all 4 Afghan staffers interviewed for this text to keep away from endangering them.)

“They usually read the chat box,” he mentioned. “This time they were seeing the chats but trying to change the topic and get everything finished.”

The staffer mentioned he had requested his superiors whether or not the UN would assist him and different Afghan workers who maintain legitimate worldwide visas. But he was informed that the group may attempt solely to get him out, forcing him to depart his spouse and younger youngster behind.

“How does this make sense?” he mentioned. “How can I leave my family behind me when I leave the country? It’s not acceptable for me or for the national staff — it’s against humanitarian values, it’s against human values.”

Other Afghan workers members described comparable conferences.

“They’re just playing a game with us. Each week there’s a meeting where they say they’re ‘trying our best,’” mentioned one other Afghan staffer for the UN Development Project who works on gender equality. “What kind of trying is this? If small embassies can evacuate staff, why can’t the UN?”

It’s unclear what number of UN worldwide workers have been moved out of Afghanistan, however the 4 staffers informed BuzzFeed News that high-level worldwide workers had been evacuated and that it appeared that it was primarily Afghans left.

Liam McDowall, a spokesperson for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), told PassBlue that the UN was pushing different international locations to help visa functions and short-term residence requests from Afghan workers members and their households.

Unama didn’t reply to calls or emails for this text.

Staffers interviewed by BuzzFeed News additionally mentioned UN officers had informed them they had been campaigning for visas so they may relocate to different international locations, however some mentioned they felt it was too little, too late.

“This is not the time for visas,” mentioned one Afghan staffer who works with UNDP. “We have UN identity cards, they can discuss with other countries to do an immediate evacuation.”

One UN employee who has urged the UN to evacuate its feminine Afghan workers out of concern concerning the Taliban’s abuses of ladies informed BuzzFeed News she had requested assist for Afghan staffers on the town corridor conferences and thru native and international workers associations.

“No one heard us,” she mentioned. “No one is listening.”

“They told us we have to ‘stay and deliver,’” she added, quoting a UN slogan about its presence in Afghanistan.

The UN reportedly moved some of its Afghan staff to Kabul to reduce their risk but has not put those people in secure locations.

“They haven’t been housing them in a fortified compound, they’ve been left to their own devices,” said the former international staffer, who had spoken directly with Afghan staffers.

The World Bank evacuated all of its Afghan-based workers, Reuters reported on Aug. 20.

A gaggle of UN unions and workers associations began a petition calling for the UN secretary-general to take “all necessary measures” together with evacuation to guard workers. It has practically 5,300 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

“We are supposed to protect human rights of all, and now we are leaving our own to fend for themselves,” mentioned Arora Akanksha, a UN auditor who’s campaigning to be the following secretary-general. “Shame on the UN and its leadership.”

“This whole ‘stay and deliver’ message that the UN is promoting, we should ask ourselves who is staying?” she added.

A Unama staffer who mentioned he’s in hiding in a distant location informed BuzzFeed News Taliban militants had been asking his neighbors about his whereabouts. He had labored on delicate political initiatives, and he believes he could possibly be focused.

“All the people here know I am working with Unama,” he mentioned. “I am high profile.”

He informed BuzzFeed News he requested his division to maneuver him to a safer location the place militants would have a more durable time figuring out him by talking to locals, days earlier than Kabul fell to the Taliban. A couple of days later, after the militant group had already seized energy, a reply got here advising him to cover at house, in line with emails he shared with BuzzFeed News.

“I’m like a detainee,” he mentioned. “I cannot go outside, I cannot see anyone. How long can I stay here like this?”

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