Iberia Joins List Of Airlines Performing Humanitarian Flights For Afghan Refugees

In a statement released on Friday, August 27th, 2021, Spanish national flag carrier Iberia says that it has transferred 84 Afghan nationals to a reception center in Spain. As a direct response to the crisis in Kabul, Spain has set up a European reception center for Afghan citizens at Madrid–Torrejón Airport (TOJ).

Iberia Airbus A321
Iberia flew Afghan refugees to Spain from Paris and Amsterdam. Photo: Iberia

Last Sunday, 177 people arrived at the joint civilian/military airport on two Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft that the Spanish government has assigned the task of rescuing Afghans and their families who had previously worked for coalition forces. The Airbus A400M Atlas is a
four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft similar to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Iberia made room for Afghans on its flights

So far, five flights sent to Afghanistan have rescued 445 Afghan nationals and five Spanish citizens. Iberia has also made space on some of its flights for Afghan refugees. Last Wednesday, Iberia sent an Airbus A321-200 to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to bring 39 people to Spain after arriving in the French capital on a military flight from Kabul. Then on Friday, Iberia flew to Paris and then on to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to bring a further 45 people to Spain for processing.

Iberia is bringing Afghan refugees to Spain for processing. Photo: Iberia

When speaking about the work being done to process arriving Afghan nationals, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles says that the facilities at Torrejón are the envy of Spain’s NATO allies.

Last weekend Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke with US President Joe Biden and said that Spain would house Afghans who had worked with the Americans at Rota near Cadiz. Rota is a joint Spanish-American military base and home to four US Aegis destroyers. The move is temporary until the Afghans can be transferred to other counties for permanent resettlement.

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Ursula von der Leyen praised Spain

At the weekend, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen visited the airbase at Torrejón and expressed her gratitude to Prime Minister Sanchez. When speaking during the visit, Spanish daily newspaper El Pais quotes Von der Leyen as saying the following:

“In the times of need, Spain has shown humanity, and Spain has proven a great sense of solidarity. So Spain is here an example for the European soul at its best, and I really want to thank you,” she said, in reference to Sanchez.

The processing is divided into three areas

The process at the Torrejón de Ardoz airfield is divided into three areas:

  • Area one: Health and wellbeing where arriving Afghans are given a PCR test for COVID-19
  • Area two: Staff from the Migration department coordinate with the Red Cross
  • Area three: Afghans are interviewed, and the bureaucratic process begins to process them
Rota is a joint US-Spanish naval base and Air Station on the Bay of Cadiz. Photo: US Navy

According to El Pais, the United States is likely to use the facilities at Rota as a model for other resettlement camps. When speaking about how the process was working, the minister for the Prime Minister, Félix Bolaños, said:

“The Torrejón base has become a humanitarian lifeline until the people rescued can travel to the different countries for whom they have worked.”

What do you think of Iberia helping with the Afghan flights? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.