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Flights Of Afghans Resume From U.S. Air Base In Germany After Measles Vaccination Campaign

Temporary housing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for evacuees from Afghanistan (file photo)

Flights of Afghan refugees from a U.S. air base in Germany have resumed, a spokesperson for the base said on October 12, adding that nine flights have left for the United States since October 9.

More than 2,500 people were flown out on those nine flights, the spokesperson for Ramstein Air Base said. Another 1,600 were due to fly out on October 12, leaving about 4,000 still waiting.

The flights were interrupted for several weeks while thousands of people who were evacuated from Afghanistan weeks ago were vaccinated against measles and other diseases.

About two dozen cases of measles, which is highly contagious, were identified as Afghan refugees began arriving at bases around Europe and the Middle East. In response, U.S. Customs and Border Protection last month paused all flights of Afghan refugees.

Afghans headed to the United States must get vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox), polio, COVID-19, and other age-appropriate vaccinations as a condition for their official permission to enter and remain.

The Ramstein spokesperson said that, to date, more than 28,500 Afghan evacuees have departed the base for the United States or another country.

Ramstein Air Base, one of the largest U.S. military bases outside America, and a U.S. base in Qatar have been the main hubs for onward travel of Afghans flown out by the U.S. military after the Taliban took power.

Spain also has been receiving Afghans this week. A second flight carrying 160 people arrived at an airport outside Madrid on October 12, a government source said, according to AFP. The first flight arrived on October 11.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares visited Pakistan and Qatar in early September to lay the groundwork for the flights.

Madrid evacuated more than 2,000 people, most of them Afghans who had worked for Spain, and their families during the Western withdrawal as the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August.

The European Union's foreign policy chief has urged the bloc's members to host a minimum of between 10,000 and 20,000 more Afghan refugees.

"To welcome them, we have to evacuate them, and we're getting down to it, but it's not easy," Josep Borrell said on October 8 in Madrid.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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