According to Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green), 18 Finns were evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday morning, including employees of the Finnish Embassy.
They were flown to Doha, Qatar, on a US military plane. The embassy has been closed and all of its Finnish employees have been evacuated from the country, he said.
Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Haavisto said that the rapid shift in power surprised many. He noted that the president has fled the country and that the Taliban now effectively control Afghanistan.
"I would like to thank [the diplomats at the embassy] for keeping our representation in Kabul open until the end, in order to ensure the safety of other Finns in the city until the end," said Haavisto.
Finland depends on its connections with foreign powers and military aircraft for evacuations, as commercial aircraft are no longer allowed in Afghan airspace, said the minister. US forces are handling air traffic control at Kabul Airport.
Haavisto described the evacuation process as rough. Those being evacuated may not take any luggage and must sit on the floor of a military plane, he said.
About 20 Finns had informed ministry officials that they were in Afghanistan and more messages have been received in recent days. Some are Finnish citizens of Afghan background. The ministry is trying to help them to the best of its ability, he said.
170 Afghans to be brought to Finland
The ministry has decided that Afghans with fairly recent employment contracts with the Finnish state will receive residence permits. However, those who helped Finland 10 years ago, for instance, will not receive help from Finland, he said.
About 170 people are to be brought, include spouses and dependent children.
The ministry is in contact with those Afghans who are to be brought to Finland for safety. For security reasons, Haavisto declined to say where they are, or how many were at the airport awaiting flights.
Those seeking asylum in Finland must get themselves to Kabul Airport for the evacuation flights. This has been difficult due to the chaotic situation.
According to Haavisto, there is no "magical way" to protect Afghans who have worked for Finland if they are outside the airport.
Not all evacuees have travel documents, but the aim is to get them in order before arrival in Finland, where the Afghans are to be taken to reception centres.
The evacuations could be done in two days if it were up to Finland, said Haavisto. However, the timetable is affected by the confusing situation at the airport and the whole country.
Finland has no plans to send diplomats to Afghanistan in the near future, Haavisto said. The EU's relationship with the new administration will determine the course of diplomatic relations in the future.
According to Haavisto, the building of relationships will depend partly on how the Taliban guarantees the rights of women, for example.