Afghan evacuees in France struggle with mental health: HRW



Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday that many Afghans who were evacuated to France during the political change in Kabul are experiencing trauma and psychological distress.

A new report by HRW said that while France has provided important support to evacuees, there remains a significant gap in terms of urgent and adequate psychosocial support.

When the Islamic Emirate took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, many Afghans who had worked with foreign governments and militaries — as well as in Afghanistan’s governments, especially in security organizarions — found themselves at risk of persecution.

“Afghans evacuated to France faced severely traumatic events and many continue to struggle with their mental health,” said Jonas Bull, assistant disability rights researcher at HRW. “As they navigate a new environment and language while managing feelings of isolation and trauma, France should provide everyone with quality mental health support.”

According to HRW, the Afghans faced hurdles to reach the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, in many cases they were being threatened, harassed, and beaten at Taliban checkpoints. Some were separated from their family members in the chaos of evacuation and had to leave them behind.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 28 people between November 2021 and January 2022, including 6 Afghan evacuees, as well as psychologists, doctors, humanitarian experts, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, staff of mental health centers, Afghan community leaders, interpreters, and French government officials.

The interviews were conducted remotely via video and telephone as well as written exchanges with people in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, and Strasbourg.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, the French government opened “Operation Apagan” to evacuate more than 3,000 people to safety, including 2,630 Afghans, between August 15 and 26, 2021. Once they arrived in France, evacuees were resettled across France and entered the general asylum application system.

One man told Human Rights Watch: “I’m in bed [in France] but my mind is in Afghanistan.” One woman said: “I love my country; I love my people. But I have a hole in my heart, I can’t do anything from here. I was in shock mode, and now I am still in shock mode. I keep forgetting things, I even forget my name.” —Tolonews

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