Everything had to happen very quickly. After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, thanks to the help of the German Bundeswehr and the support of elite Swiss troops, the federal government was able to bring employees and other Swiss citizens stationed in Kabul to safety.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) operated a cooperation office in the capital of Afghanistan. Because the Taliban could see local activists as Western allies, living in Afghanistan was too dangerous for them. Employees and their families, a total of 218 people came to Switzerland on humanitarian visas.
The Swiss Cooperation Office is closed to this day. Four people will continue to operate from Switzerland, says Pierre Alain Elschinger from the State Department (EDA) to Blick. About 40 local workers and their families have found asylum in Switzerland using a simple process. The FDFA cannot say how many of them are still in the country.
Sultan Shinwari (31) from Kabul: “It was difficult to reach the airport”,05:32,
Came to Switzerland with two backpacks
One person who continues to live in Switzerland is the Afghan Sultan Shinwari (33). The qualified financial controller came to Switzerland with his wife and four children. “We had to leave everything behind, except for two backpacks full of clothes,” said Shinwari, when Blick came to visit them after arriving at the asylum accommodation in Kirchlindach Bey.
A year later the family lives in their own apartment in Jegenstorf BE. Shinwari says they are fine. A permanent return is currently out of the question for the family, with the situation in their home country very precarious. But getting a foothold in Switzerland is difficult. Afghan learns German and is looking for a job, but so far without success.
The family receives social support – a situation that Shinwari finds difficult to bear. « In Kabul we gave money to the poor to buy food for their families because we had a good job. Now we are beggars and living on social security.” Not only for him, but also for many former colleagues.
He wished for more support
Shinwari feels disappointed with Switzerland. The Federal Council had announced that it would look after the local workforce. One has a duty of care, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter (58) insisted a year ago.
However, the three months’ salary that Shinwari and her aides had received as severance pay from the State Department had to be returned to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) soon after their arrival in Switzerland.
Some of his former colleagues are still living in an asylum center, Shinwari says. “There is no further support from the EDA,” said Afghan. He will be expected to get help in finding a job. But that is not the case.
“My kids think we’re criminals”
For EDA, assistance was limited to meetings with former employees. This happened in May, a full nine months after fleeing Switzerland. The federal government cited the pandemic as the reason for the late appointment. As far as job-finding assistance is concerned, FDFA refers to those cantons and municipalities that are responsible for obtaining positive asylum decisions.
Shinwari also finds it difficult to accept that as recognized refugees, they are forbidden to travel to Afghanistan. “My kids think we’re criminals, that we can’t go back to visit the grandparents,” he says. “I wonder why the Swiss government treats people who help them achieve their goals in Afghanistan.”