Dozens in Afghanistan still awaiting humanitarian visas to Belgium

Two years after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, many people are still waiting for humanitarian visas to come to Belgium. Solidarity organisation 11.11.11 is aware of "several dozen cases", the NGO told VRT's Radio 1 on Monday morning.

When Kabul fell to the Taliban two years ago, Belgium drew up an evacuation list of around 580 people who were in danger. They were able to come to Belgium on humanitarian visas. The evacuation mission has since ended, but 11.11.11 says it is now aware of dozens of other people "who meet the conditions for a humanitarian visa". These include people who worked for a Belgian organisation or did humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Long procedure

"A waiting period of more than a year is too long to keep people in limbo. We are in favour of reducing this to a maximum of three months," Flor Didden, migration expert at 11.11.11, told De Ochtend.

The organisation is critical of the long and difficult procedure. For example, the visa has to be applied for at a Belgian embassy, but there is no longer one in Afghanistan. "As a result, they have to go to neighbouring countries such as Iran or Pakistan, where they are often given contradictory information or sent from pillar to post," says Didden. "And they often have to wait a long time for answers, even more than a year. As a result, they run the risk of being sent back to Afghanistan."

'Three months is reasonable'

According to Didden, several obstacles need to be addressed. "The long waiting times are linked to a lack of staff, both at the Immigration Department and at the embassy itself. There are not enough hands to process these files. However, the deadlines should be shortened - three months is reasonable, in our opinion."

She also criticised the cost of applying for a visa, which can reach 1,000 euros for a family with two children.



Image shows Belgian military plane used in Operation Red Kite to evacuate civilians after the Taliban's takeover in Afghanistan, September 2021 © BELGA PHOTO HANDOUT DEFENCE - JOZEF VANDEN BROECK

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