UK envoy criticises new Taliban Afghan travel restrictions

Restrictions stop Afghans from leaving without a clear destination and affect unaccompanied women

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman. EPA
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The Taliban administration's announcement that it will restrict Afghans from leaving the country under some circumstances drew criticism from the UK's envoy on Monday, amid fears it could hamper continuing evacuation efforts.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday that Afghans would not be allowed to leave the country unless they had a clear destination, and that women could not travel overseas for study without a male guardian.

Hugo Shorter, the UK charge d'affaires for Afghanistan, said in a tweet that he had seen the Taliban's statements on the travel changes.

"These would be unacceptable restrictions on freedom of movement," Mr Shorter said. "I call on the Taliban to clarify their remarks urgently."

It was not immediately clear whether the plans would hamper the work by international governments and organisations to move out thousands of Afghans who had worked with foreign embassies, militaries and projects, and were eligible for asylum in western countries but were still in Afghanistan.

"We will not allow Afghans to leave the country unless their destinations are known," Mr Mujahid said.

He said the travel restrictions would apply to Afghans who worked with Nato and American forces, but did not elaborate under what, if any, circumstances they would be able to leave.

Mr Mujahid blamed poor conditions in countries where some Afghans were being held while their visas were processed after thousands were moved out, at times without finalised visas, by withdrawing foreign forces after the Taliban's takeover in August.

Regular evacuation flights organised by the US through Qatar were largely stopped in December over disagreement by the Taliban administration on who should be able to board, sources told Reuters.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Taliban's latest restrictions and whether they would affect its evacuation plans.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 7:17 AM