UN staff in Afghanistan feel abandoned as Taliban rises


With the Taliban coming to power last week, Afghans working for the United Nations saw many of their foreign colleagues on planes to leave the country.

But their increasingly desperate pleas for help out — or at least for a safe place to stay if the Taliban target them for their work at an international organization — are being ignored, according to interviews and emails seen by BuzzFeed News.

Angry current and former employees said the United Nations, which has been in Afghanistan since 2002, appears to have no plan for its staff of thousands of Afghan nationals to leave the country, giving them few alternatives, but roaming home while militants may be present. Find them.

In phone calls and text messages, four Afghan nationals working for the United Nations told BuzzFeed News that the United Nations had not offered them safe housing in Kabul, causing some to seek shelter with their relatives. They noted that Afghan nationals working for the United Nations take much greater risks in the country for less pay than their international colleagues, and that their work may put them at risk. Reuters reported on Tuesday Taliban fighters have looted many UN compounds since their astonishing rise to power last week.

“It’s very visible in societies,” said a former international staff member at the United Nations, who asked not to be identified. “The Taliban know exactly who these people are.”

The United Nations did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Secretary-General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in August. 18 Press conference that the United Nations cannot easily evacuate Afghan nationals from the country because it “is not a visa-issuing country”.

He added that the UN was doing “its best” for local staff and their families. “There are all kinds of administrative hurdles that need to be negotiated and discussed,” Dujarric said. “But the national staff is at the forefront of what we try to do every day.”

the organization have about 300 international staff and 3,000 local Afghan staff are in Afghanistan, working for the United Nations mission in the country as well as agencies such as the United Nations Development Program and UN Women. The organization said on August 18 that about 100 of these international staff will leave temporarily for Kazakhstan.

PassBlue news site focused on the United Nations I mentioned on Friday The Afghan nationals working for the organization felt “lonely and petrified”. New details in this story about Afghan staff unsuccessfully asking for help hiding from the Taliban – even when one of them heard that militants were in his neighborhood asking where he was – raise further questions about whether the UN planned adequately to protect local staff as intensified The Taliban launched their military offensive against the Afghan government starting in May.

“They’ve had months to prepare for this,” the former international employee said.

One Afghan employee, who works in the operations department of a UN agency, said he and his colleagues repeatedly raised the issue of the evacuations in a chat box in a Zoom meeting with colleagues and superiors last week, but received no response. (BuzzFeed News is withholding identification details of all four Afghan employees interviewed in this article to avoid putting them at risk.)

“They usually read the chat box,” he said. “This time they were watching the chats but they are trying to change the subject and end everything.”

The employee said he asked his superiors if the United Nations would help him and other Afghan employees with valid international visas. But he was told that the organization could only try to get him out, forcing him to leave his wife and young child behind.

“What is the meaning of this?” He said. How do I leave my family behind when I leave the country? It’s not acceptable to me or the national staff – it’s against human values, it’s against human values.”

Other Afghan staff described similar meetings.

“They are just playing with us. Every week there is a meeting where they say they are ‘doing our best’,” said another Afghan employee of the United Nations Development Project working on gender equality. “What kind of attempt is that? If small embassies can evacuate staff, why can’t the United Nations? “

It is unclear how many international UN staff have been relocated from Afghanistan, but the four staff members told BuzzFeed News that high-level international staff have been evacuated and it appears that most of them are Afghans remaining.

Liam McDowell, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), PassBlue . said The UN has been pressuring other countries to support visa and temporary residency requests from Afghan staff and their families.

Onama has not responded to calls or emails for this article.

Staff members interviewed by BuzzFeed News also said they were told by UN officials that they were campaigning for visas so they could move to other countries, but some said they felt it was too little, too late.

“This is not the time for visas,” said an Afghan employee working with the United Nations Development Program. “We have UN IDs, they can discuss it with other countries to do an immediate evacuation.”

A female UN worker, who has urged the UN to evacuate its Afghan staff for fear of Taliban abuses against women, told BuzzFeed News that she has sought help for Afghan staff at city council meetings and through local and global staff associations.

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

“They told us we have to survive and succeed,” she added, citing a UN slogan about its presence in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations, some moved of its Afghan staff to Kabul to reduce the risks they are exposed to, but it has not put these people in safe locations.

“They were not housed in a fortified compound, they were left to their own devices,” said the former international employee, who spoke directly with the Afghan staff.

World Bank evacuation Reuters reported on August 20 that all of its employees working in Afghanistan.

A group of United Nations federations and employee associations started a petition The UN Secretary-General called for “all necessary measures” to be taken, including evacuation, to protect staff. It has nearly 5,300 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

“We are supposed to protect human rights for all, and now we leave ours to fend for themselves,” said Arora Akanksha, a UN auditor who is campaigning to be the next Secretary-General. Shame on the United Nations and its leadership.

“This whole message of ‘survival and deliver’ that the United Nations is promoting, we must ask ourselves who will survive?” She added.

An Unama employee, who said he was hiding in a remote location, told BuzzFeed News that Taliban fighters are asking his neighbors about his whereabouts. He had worked on sensitive political projects, and believed he could be targeted.

“All the people here know that I work with Onama,” he said. “I am high-ranking.”

He told BuzzFeed News he had asked his administration to move him to a safer location as the militants would have a more difficult time identifying him by talking to local residents, days before Kabul fell to the Taliban. A few days later, after the armed group had already seized power, a response came advising him to hide at home, according to emails he shared with BuzzFeed News.

He said, “I am like a prisoner.” I can’t go out, I can’t see anyone. How long can I stay here like this? “

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