US bases still housing 9,000 Afghans in Germany a month after evacuation

Measles outbreak caused weeks-long delay to flights from Ramstein Air Base

Military tents provide accommodation for Afghans at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Getty
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More than 9,000 Afghans are still sheltering at US military bases in Germany, over a month since the end of rescue flights from Kabul.

Many Afghans were put up in tents at Ramstein Air Base, the headquarters of US air forces in Europe, with the expectation that they would quickly move on to North America.

But a measles outbreak forced flights from Ramstein hangars to be stopped while US medics raced to vaccinate the refugees.

Flights from Ramstein were stopped in early September and are not expected to resume until this weekend, said a spokeswoman for the base.

Other Afghans are living at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern, Germany, after Nato forces flew them out of Kabul.

Markus Lammert, a spokesman for Germany’s Interior Ministry, said on Monday that 9,139 people were housed at Ramstein and Kaiserslautern.

They are eventually expected to join about 60,000 others admitted to the US since the fall of Kabul.

Some have been issued with special immigrant visas after working for Nato forces during the 20-year campaign. Others are still applying, or were admitted because they are considered to be particularly vulnerable under Taliban rule.

Tent city

The Afghans at Ramstein were put up in tents in what the Pentagon described as an “instant city” at America’s largest airbase in Europe.

Military staff described a race to find bedding, clothing and halal food for the thousands of Afghans. Two meals were served per day.

The refugees must take biometric scans and be screened by US law enforcement before entering the hangar where they take off.

At least 16 cases of measles were found among Afghans arriving in the US after the evacuation, putting a stop to flights from Germany and other transit points.

Medical workers have handed out 49,000 vaccines at US bases, but Washington insisted on a three-week quarantine period.

There were more than 21,000 Afghans at Ramstein by the end of August, two weeks after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Berlin could not confirm whether any of the Afghans at US bases were expected to stay permanently in Germany rather than moving on to America.

German forces brought 5,347 people out of Kabul during the Nato airlift. The government hopes to extract others via Afghanistan’s land borders.

Updated: October 05, 2021, 9:43 AM