At least 51 people who had fled Afghanistan landed in Uganda on Wednesday, authorities said, the first to arrive in an African country in the race to complete such evacuations before the United States withdraws its military from Afghanistan by the end of the month. .
Uganda said last week that it is preparing to temporarily accommodate evacuees from Afghanistan following a request from the US government. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the East African nation is Africa’s largest refugee country – with nearly 1.5 million displaced persons living within its borders – and the fifth largest refugees in the world.
The evacuees’ arrival came 10 days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and hours after President Biden said the United States was on track for its withdrawal by the August 31 deadline. Their arrival also came as the Pentagon said it had flown the largest daily number of evacuees from Kabul airport on Tuesday. Some of these are now reaching countries that, like Uganda, have agreed to serve as temporary stopovers.
In Uganda, the evacuees underwent a security screening on Wednesday morning and were tested for the corona virus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. News outlets shared photos of them on social media arrive at a local hotel.
Ugandan officials have said the United States is paying for the maintenance of the evacuees, with aid agencies such as Mercy Corps also pledging to intervene.
The evacuees arrived on a private flight chartered by the Rockefeller Foundation and other funders, according to Ashley E. Chang, the foundation’s head of media relations.
The Ugandan Foreign Ministry said there were also plans to allow some Ugandans to travel on the chartered flight, but due to “problems accessing the airport in Kabul, they were unable to make it.”
Arrangements were made to evacuate those Ugandan citizens on a subsequent flight, the ministry said.
Authorities have not disclosed the nationalities of the people who arrived in Uganda on Wednesday. But Okello Oryem, a deputy foreign minister, said in an interview that Afghans and people from other countries, including Europe and the United States, were expected as part of the evacuation plan.
Ms Chang also said Wednesday’s flight was carrying high-risk Afghan adults — along with some minors — working with US-funded non-governmental organizations, special immigrant visa applicants and many others eligible for P2 visas reserved for performers and artists. entertainers.
US officials have been in contact with countries around the world — including Canada, Kuwait, Mexico and Qatar — that have agreed to serve as transit stops or announced an intention to grant refugee status or resettlement to people fleeing Afghanistan.
The United States provides more than $970 million in development and military aid to Uganda annually. It supports education and agriculture and provides antiretroviral treatments to more than 990,000 Ugandans who are HIV positive.
President Yoweri Museveni — who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986 and was reelected to a sixth term in January after bloody elections — is also a key US military ally, deploying troops to control Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab group in Somalia.
Uganda is now home to nearly 1.5 million refugees who have fled violence in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan – conflicts where Mr. Museveni interfered, critics say.
Authorities have not specified how evacuees from Afghanistan would arrive or when they will arrive. But Mr Oryem said the government would not rush them to leave.
“These are people who are traumatized and have gone through difficulties,” he said.