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A new support initiative for locally employed staff in Afghanistan

13.08.2021  15:52
The Danish Government has reached an agreement with parties in the Parliament regarding a new support initiative for locally employed Afghan staff with ties to Denmark.

The Social Democratic Party, Venstre, the Socialist People’s Party, the Danish Social-Liberal Party, Enhedslisten, the Conservative People’s Party, Liberal Alliance, the Christian Democrats and the Alternative have agreed to the following:

Over two decades, Denmark has had a significant, active, and multipronged effort in Afghanistan. A broad majority of the parties in Parliament have supported the Danish presence in Afghanistan. In recognition of this effort, the parties have reached agreement on the need to make an extra effort for the people that have stood side by side with Denmark.

The security situation in Afghanistan is serious. The Taleban are gaining terrain, and the situation is developing even faster than many people have feared. We have a collective responsibility to help the Afghans who are threatened because of their association with and contribution to Denmark’s engagement in Afghanistan.

Therefore, current local staff at the Danish Embassy in Kabul as well as previous staff at the embassy or people who have worked for Danish Defence who have been employed during the last two years are being offered the chance to be evacuated to Denmark. Evacuation will take place as soon as possible and will be carried out gradually so that the embassy in Kabul can continue to function.

The agreement means that, in connection with the opening of the Parliament, the Government will present a bill to establish a specific and temporary grounds for residency for the current local staff at the Danish embassy in Kabul, as well as for previous local staff members who have been employed during the last two years. The grounds for residency will be temporary, with a time restriction of two years without a possibility of extension. Foreign residents who are covered by specific and temporary grounds for residency will, however, be able to apply for a residence permit in pursuant to the Aliens Act following arrival in Denmark and on that basis achieve the status and the rights that the rules entail, including with regard to family reunification.

With regard to closest family, in general this encompasses the locally employed staff’s spouse/partner and unmarried children under the age of 18.  In exceptional cases, additional persons in the household who the locally employed staff member is responsible for, may also be eligible. Only one accompanying spouse can be included as closest family, just as no spouses under the age of 18 will be accepted. Should this exception cause persons to reject the offer of evacuation to Denmark, it is, of course, their own choice.

Security mechanism

As an element of the evacuation and the introduction of the special law, a security mechanism is being introduced that is to, as much as is possible, disclose whether the employee and their accompanying family members constitute a security risk for Denmark. Relevant authorities will thus undertake an immediate security screening of the persons in question prior to their departure from Afghanistan. In addition, the evacuated persons are to take part in a security interview with the immigration authorities and other relevant Danish authorities following their arrival in Denmark. The right to a two-year residence permit in Denmark is conditional on the persons being evacuated are not deemed to constitute a danger to Denmark’s security. It is noted that an effective security screening depends on the availability of relevant and valid information that can shed light on circumstances that have significance for security aspects. This presents a challenge in Afghanistan.

Previous serious crimes will exclude evacuated persons from the right to two-years residency in Denmark. If the person in question commits crimes in Denmark, the usual deportation rules will apply.

In situations when a person who has come to Denmark and only then is deemed to be a danger for Denmark’s security, or it is determined that the person in question has committed serious crimes, then the person will, as a rule, not have a right to residency in Denmark.

Practical issues for processing cases in Afghanistan

With regard to both establishing the family members and the security screening mechanism, the first step in processing cases will take place in Afghanistan. It will have to be done in haste and in a challenging security situation and with the general limitations that apply in Afghanistan with regard to, for example, gathering intelligence and DNA tests.

Continued possibility for support via the Interpreter Agreement

The interpreters that Denmark has worked with have primarily been employed by allied countries. Therefore, it is makes sense that they should seek help from them. The Interpreter Agreement was established for the interpreters and other locally employed staff who are facing a specific threat or are in danger as a result of their collaboration with Denmark and who are unable to get help from the countries that they have worked for. The Interpreter Agreement still applies on the condition that case processing is possible in practice. An information campaign will be initiated to encourage persons that are threatened and who are covered by the Interpreter Agreement to contact the relevant Danish authorities while case processing can take place in Afghanistan. Extra recourses have been added, and applications are being processed quickly.

The Government will, in close cooperation with likeminded countries, continue to examine the opportunities for identifying countries in the region where applicants covered by the Interpreter Agreement can stay while their applications are being processed.

NATO, EU and UN Solidarity

In addition, the parties are also in agreement that Denmark must be ready to discuss a joint distribution of the burden with regard to the locally employed staff at NATO, the EU, and the UN, and that requests from these organisations will be discussed by the parties to the agreement.

The parties have agreed that they will follow the developments in Afghanistan closely and that, together with other likeminded countries, Denmark will discuss the future handling of the situation, including with regard to supporting Afghans who have had a looser connection to the country’s activities in Afghanistan.