First Group Of Afghan Evacuees Lands In North Macedonia

SKOPJE -- A first group of 149 Afghan evacuees has arrived in North Macedonia, where they are expected to stay for several months pending resettlement to a third country.

The Afghan men, women, and children arrived on a private Afghan Kam Air flight at Skopje international airport just before midnight on August 30.

The group included employees of international organizations in Afghanistan, as well as their families.

The United States and its allies have evacuated more than 123,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans from Kabul since the Taliban seized Kabul more than two weeks ago. The last U.S. military flight left Kabul overnight, marking the end of a 20-year presence in Afghanistan and America's longest war.

North Macedonia has agreed to temporarily host some 780 Afghans who could face reprisals from the Taliban, granting them 90-day visas.

Upon arrival, the 149 Afghan evacuees were met by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as officials of North Macedonia’s Foreign, Interior, and Health ministries.

At 39 weeks pregnant, one of the passengers was immediately transferred to hospital.

The group will be tested for the coronavirus. Those who test positive are to be quarantined for two weeks.

North Macedonia’s government has said the evacuees would be sheltered in hotels on the outskirts of Skopje at the expense of international organizations and the United States.

“These are our allies, people who have worked with us and whose lives are in danger, and people who need help the most,” Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said on August 31.

"Their final destinations will be processed in the coming days," he added.

North Macedonia is a signatory along with the United States and dozens of other countries to a joint statement in which the nations committed to ensuring that Afghans who worked for foreign governments and organizations and are at risk can continue traveling freely to destinations outside Afghanistan.

North Macedonia joined NATO in 2020, and sent troops in Afghanistan to support the alliance deployment between 2002 and 2014.