North Macedonia will take in 450 Afghans fleeing the Taliban and host them while they complete the process of applying for special visas to enter the United States.
They are employees and family members of Afghans who worked in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, activists from rights organizations, journalists, translators, and students, North Macedonia’s government said in a statement on August 17.
Skopje said it will also accept Afghans “who have been supporting NATO troops for the past 20 years, including North Macedonia’s military,” which contributed soldiers to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-2008.
They are part of a huge international airlift currently under way at Kabul airport to help tens of thousands of people terrified at the prospect of Taliban rule get out of the country. Most of the people fleeing worked alongside the Americans or with other NATO countries as interpreters or in other roles during the nearly 20-year war and fear reprisals from the Taliban.
Most of the 450 Afghans headed to North Macedonia are expected to arrive by the end of the week, depending on conditions at Kabul airport, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said whether they will be quarantined after their arrival will depend on their vaccination status.
The NATO country is the third in the Western Balkans after Albania, also a NATO member, and Kosovo to have approved a request from the United States to admit Afghan refugees.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani said on August 15 that their countries would temporarily house a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the United States.
While in North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo, the Afghans are to be vetted by U.S. authorities and will stay until documentation for U.S. immigration visas is arranged.
The Foreign Ministry said most of the 75 registered Macedonian citizens in Afghanistan have been evacuated from the country.
Bujar Osmani said 11 of 14 Macedonian citizens left at the Kabul military base near the airport were to be transferred to the airport to be evacuated on August 17. The other three will leave the country later.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service