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EU chiefs to visit Afghan evacuation centre in Spain

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EU Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen holds a speech on the present situation in Europe, in Berlin, Germany November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

The EU’s two top officials will visit a reception centre in Spain on Saturday for Afghan refugees who worked for the bloc, Spain’s foreign minister said.

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Spain set up the centre at a military base at Torrejon de Ardoz to care for refugees who have been airlifted to the European Union until they are relocated to other countries of the bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will visit the centre along with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told Ser radio.

The centre was built by Spain’s air force in just four days and it can house around 1,000 people who will then be sent to other European Union member states, he added.

“It is a hub, they arrive in Spain and from here they will go to other nations who offer them visas,” the minister said.

“It is Europe’s logistics centre because all Afghans who worked with various EU institutions in recent years will pass through there.”

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The Spanish foreign ministry announced Monday that Spain had agreed to be the “entry point in the EU” for Afghan refugees who worked for both the EU and NATO.

Albares said “almost all” EU member states had agreed to receive Afghans who worked for European institutions, citing as examples Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Latvia.

Spain will take in “around 50” of these refugees, he added.

The Torrejon de Ardoz base received a flight on Thursday from Rome with 36 Afghan employees of the EU’s mission in Kabul.

Over 160 people — employees of the EU and their families — have already arrived in Europe, a spokesman for the bloc, Peter Stanos, told AFP in Brussels.

Over 200 others are waiting to be evacuated out of Afghanistan, Stanos said, adding this number was not final.

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