*Names changed to protect identity*
A war-torn country, Afghanistan has witnessed another humanitarian eyesore after 20 years on 15 August, 2021, when the country fell to the Islamist insurgents without even a fight. It was a surreal moment for the whole world. Since then, the people in Afghanistan are reckless to leave the country at the earliest.
Evacuation efforts have been in a race against time as countries try to get vulnerable Afghans and their own citizens out of Afghanistan. The United States completed its evacuation mission in Afghanistan by 31 August, the date laid out earlier to pull American troops out from the war-torn country. With that, the Taliban have taken full control of the country.
People in Afghanistan are in a constant state of mayhem. They were dismayed by the Taliban taking control of the country. These people are in a desperate bid to leave the country and they are looking for help from other countries.
Many of them want to travel to India, but India, on 25 August, decided to invalidate all visas issued to Afghan nationals, including about 2,000 visas issued in the last few months, which made it tougher for people planning to leave for India.
However, the Indian government announced that all Afghans must enter India now only on special e-visas applied online. This news has come as a blow to the people stuck in Afghanistan. I reached out to some of the people in Afghanistan who have applied for their e-visa to be able to come to India. They see their future all murky.
Nazia, a 26-year-old flight attendant stuck in Kabul, is under distressing circumstances. She had applied for an E-visa to India on 18 August, 2021, but hasn’t heard anything on her application to date.
The Indian E-visa website mentions that e-visa applications may take up to 72 hours for processing after final submission.
A Foreign Minister secretary, Aarif Saifi, is stuck in Kabul with his mother and mother-in-law, while his wife and children are in Delhi and he needs to join them as soon as possible.
When I asked him about his e-visa application, he told me, “I had paper visas for myself and my family, but they got cancelled, so I applied for e-visa for me and my family and it has taken more than 2 weeks. We always considered India a friend and brother, I’m completely shattered, the situation over here is worse and all my hopes are on this e-visa clearance.”
An Independent Researcher Farzan, who also works with Kardan University, has no update on his e-visa application. He says, “I applied for the visa three weeks back, they say on their website to respond within 72 hours, but I didn’t get any update. I inquired through email and they told me to wait. How am I supposed to wait this long while being in a war-torn country?”
Afghans raised several questions over the time India is taking to respond to the E-visa applications. In the process of reporting this story, I talked to a reporter in Kabul, whom I promised complete anonymity because she didn’t want her identity to be revealed.
She said, “I applied for my e-visa to visit India on 17 August, I have also sent a follow-up email but nothing yet. The situation in Kabul is changing every second. It doesn’t seem to be an urgent visa on India’s front. It is even more time-consuming than the time when Kabul was stable. Previously we could get the visa in a week.”
Khairiyat, one of the PhD students studying in Delhi until the pandemic shut down their university, has still not heard about how she could return and has not heard about her e-visa application either. She said that her research visa was valued for a year and she doesn’t know why they cancelled her visa.
People who have worked with the previous Afghanistan Government fear for their life. Salim, a 33-year old official, says, “I had applied for my e-visa 2 weeks back but haven’t heard anything. Although it was supposed to be issued within 72 hours and it is not my first India visa, so I have the background and information with the Government of India but still nothing positive.”
Talking further on the situation in Kabul, he said, “I have to visit India to pick up my Poland visa, and here in Kabul, those who have worked with the past government of Afghanistan are all in danger. I worked with the United Nations and I am really afraid of staying here for a long time. Day by day, they (Taliban) are trying a new approach to recognize the past government’s allies.”
There are many people in Afghanistan whose last resort is India. They have all their hopes fixed on their e-visa application clearance and it is a grim situation. Therefore, the Indian government should work on the clearance of these visas as soon as possible because the situation in Afghanistan is scathing.