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French mayors offer to take in Afghan refugees as 200 evacuated from Kabul overnight

France said on Wednesday it had evacuated almost 200 Afghan nationals from Kabul overnight as it steps up airlifts out of the Afghan capital following the Taliban takeover.

French mayors offer to take in Afghan refugees as 200 evacuated from Kabul overnight
People wait to board French military transport at Kabul airport. Photo: STR/AFP

The French military is taking people out of Kabul on military planes to Abu Dhabi, from where they are to be flown on passenger aircraft to Paris. A first contingent of 41 French and foreign nationals arrived in France on Monday.

Amid the chaos of the fall of Kabul, French embassy staff moved to the airport where they continues to process visas for Afghans under threat from the Taliban.

And on Tuesday, dozens of mayors from across France offered to welcome refugees, saying “we have the capacity to welcome with dignity”.

“Nearly 200 Afghans who worked for France or who are under threat have just been evacuated from Kabul, as well as French and foreign nationals,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet on Wednesday, adding that the operations would continue.

The foreign ministry said 216 people were on board the flight, including 25 French, 184 Afghans “from civil society in need of protection” as well as seven other foreign nationals.

It said that this operation meant that most people – both of French and Afghan nationality – who had taken refuge at the French embassy in Kabul, had now been evacuated. The French embassy is now working out of the airport.

The mayor of Besançon, Anne Vignot of the Green party, wrote: “I respond to France’s duty of humanity and announce that my city of Besançon is ready to welcome Afghans who seek refuge in France. We have the capacity to welcome with dignity.”

The Green mayor of Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, added that her city “in its long tradition as a hospitable city, is ready to welcome Afghans who seek refuge in France” while the Socialist Olivier Bianchi added: “Clermont-Ferrand will be at the meeting place to welcome those who are threatened in their freedom. We must live up to our values.”

Macron in a speech on Monday night said France was ready to help activists, artists and journalists who risk being targeted because of their work.

“We will help them as it is the honour of France to be side-by-side with those who share our values,” he said. Addressing fears that the Taliban will restrict the rights of women, he added: “Afghan women have the right to live in freedom and dignity.”

“We will say very clearly to those who opt for war, obscurantism and blind violence that they have chosen isolation,” he said.

But he stirred controversy with other parts of his speech, which called on EU leaders to work together on a response that was “robust, coordinated and united” to prevent irregular migration by harmonising criteria and showing European solidarity.

“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds,” he said.

France in July stopped deporting people to Afghanistan because of the security situation.

Member comments

  1. I sincerely hope this government and others are able to separate out the terrorists from among the legitimate refugees. We don’t seem to even be trying to do this here in the USA.

  2. I find it strange that these Mayors are eager to house Afghan refugees yet seem to show no interest whatsoever in the existing thousands of migrants living rough in the Pas-de-Calais who risk death crossing the Channel to you know where.

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POLITICS

French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

France's interior minister said on Tuesday that he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools.

French government aims to block 'burkinis' in swimming pools

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamisation.

The Alpine city of Grenoble changed its swimming pool rules on Monday to allow all types of bathing suits, not just traditional swimming costumes for women and trunks for men which were mandated before.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called the change an “unacceptable provocation” that was “contrary to our values”, adding that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

Under a new law to counter “Islamist separatism” passed by parliament last year, the government can challenge decisions it suspects of undermining France’s strict secular traditions that are meant to separate religions from the state.

Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 kicked off the first firestorm around the bathing suit.

The restrictions were eventually overturned for being discriminatory.

Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s highest profile Green politicians who leads a broad left-wing coalition locally, has championed the city’s move as a victory.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC on Monday.

The head of the EELV party, Julien Bayou, argued that the decision had nothing to do with secularism laws, which oblige state officials to be neutral in religious matters but guarantee the rights of citizens to practice their faith freely.

Burkinis are not banned in French state-run pools on religious grounds, but for hygiene reasons, while swimmers are not under any legal obligation to hide their religion while bathing.

“I want Muslim women to be able to practice their religion, or change it, or not believe, and I would like them to be able to go swimming,” he added. “I want them also to suffer less demands to dress in one way or another.”

Grenoble is not the first French city to change its rules.

The northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.

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