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Haavisto: Finland has "limited opportunities to provide protection" to Afghans as Taliban enters Kabul

The foreign minister said that the rapidly developing situation posed "challenges" for the evacuation of Afghans to Finland, as decided by the government on Friday.

Ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto
Haavisto spoke to reporters on Sunday afternoon as the situation in Afghanistan was in rapid flux. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) has urged all Finns to leave Afghanistan immediately.

In a virtual press conference on Sunday afternoon, Haavisto declined to say how many Finns are still in Afghanistan, citing security concerns. He also did not respond directly when asked whether an official decision had been made to evacuate the Finnish embassy.

He said that Finland was still attempting to evacuate up to 130 people, including staff who had worked for Finland in Afghanistan recently, and their families.

However, he said, the current, rapidly developing situation posed "challenges" for the evacuation of Afghans to Finland as decided by the government on Friday.

"Tremendous number of queries" from Afghans

Haavisto said that Finnish officials had received "a tremendous number of queries" from people who have been in contact with Finns in the country and were now seeking protection.

"We now have limited opportunities to provide this protection," Haavisto said, adding that no more than 130 Afghans would be evacuated to Finland.

Haavisto said that he could not have guessed on Friday that the situation would escalate so quickly.

On Friday the government approved efforts to evacuate and grant residence permits to people who have recently been employed by Finland, Nato or the EU in Afghanistan along with their families, up to a maximum of 130 people.

Since then, though, the situation on the ground has changed dramatically, with Islamist insurgents making a lightning advance across the country. On Sunday, Taliban fighters entered the last government stronghold, the capital Kabul. The BBC quoted the acting interior minister as saying that a "peaceful transfer of power to a transitional government" was being prepared.

Over €700m in aid over two decades

Locals who worked for western forces in Afghanistan now face likely retribution from the hardline Islamist group.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Afghanistan has received the largest development support from Finland in this century, totalling 385 million euros between 2002 and 2020.

Finland spent another 315 million euros in military support to the Afghan government over two decades. Two Finnish peacekeepers died and 15 were injured in the effort.

As of Sunday, Finland's embassy in Kabul was still open.

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