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Traveling to Afghanistan for Humanitarian Aid

Notwithstanding the travel advisory issued against entering Afghanistan, aid workers are visiting the country to provide the much-needed help.  

The United Nation that is spearheading humanitarian work in the country says that aid workers attached to the World Health Organization, World Food Forum and Doctor Without Borders are deployed in the Central Asian country. 

Read on to know more about traveling to the war-torn Afghanistan run by the Islamic extremist group Taliban and the precautions to be taken by foreigners.  

How To Arrive in Afghanistan

At present, traveling to Afghanistan is not just dangerous but also difficult.  

There are no regular commercial flight operations from international airports in Afghanistan. 

Special flights carrying humanitarian aid and aid workers are operating occasionally. 

Most of the travelers are from Arab countries with whom the Taliban has forged informal diplomatic ties. They mostly carry necessary medicines and food.  

The country shares its land borders with Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. The land crossings are manned by Taliban soldiers. 

It is extremely dangerous to cross these borders especially for travelers from the US and NATO-member countries. 

At times, the land crossing may not be open and sometimes the Taliban closes them without a prior warning. There is also an ongoing civil war between the Taliban and other groups.  

It is advised that aid workers from organizations attached to the UN must seek prior permission from the de facto government in the country.  

The Taliban is in the final stage of inking a deal with the government of the UAE to start regular flight operations from the airports in the country. 

If the deal comes through, traveling can be a little easier. This may also open up trade and tourism industries.  

Precautions To be Taken When in Afghanistan  

Most foreign nations have severed their diplomatic engagements with the Taliban government of Afghanistan. 

There is a heightened risk for foreigners in the country. Crimes like kidnappings, theft and detentions for money are widespread. 

Foreign aid workers may not be able to get consular help.  

The volatile security situations in the country are not suitable for lengthy stay and international travelers are advised to return to their home country once the job is done.  

They must be extremely vigilant while outside and should avoid public gatherings and crowds. They should also take safety measures including traveling along with the crew and fellow aid workers.    

There are no formal law enforcement systems like the police department or court of law in Afghanistan. Foreigners can be detained without following proper processes.  

They should avoid any activity that may be interpreted as against the de facto government and its ideology.  

Photography is frowned upon and foreign travelers attempting to take pictures of military or even tourist attractions can be detained. It is very important to inform others in the group about travel plans and routes in advance. 

Entry Requirements  

The visa policy and entry requirements of Afghanistan is unclear and in a transitional stage.  

Foreign aid workers and travelers should check with the flight operators about the entry requirements as the country’s de facto government is not issuing a travel authorization as of now.  

The country reportedly has lifted all COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Note that the entry and COVID-19 requirements can change at regular intervals or at a short notice.   

International aid workers are strongly encouraged to know about rules and guidelines regarding entry and stay in the country. 

The previous government of Afghanistan issued visas to citizens of all foreign nations who wished to enter the country. There was no visa-free entry.   

Applicants had to present at the Afghan embassy for visa application. There was no online application facility.   

Do I Need Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination to Enter Afghanistan     

At present, there is no clarity about COVID-19 vaccination requirements needed to enter Afghanistan. 

However, airlines operating flights to the country may ask the travelers to submit vaccination certificates. Foreign aid workers and travelers are advised to check with the airlines before planning their trip.  

Transiting Through Afghanistan  

During the previous regime all foreigners transiting through Afghanistan were required to get a transit visa. They had to submit the transit visa, onward flight tickets and their passport at the immigration counter before entering the waiting area for transiting passengers.  

However, the current rules for transiting are unclear. Travelers who have to transit through the country must check with the airlines about the requirements.  

Do I Need Medical and Travel Insurance    

Medical care and medical facilities in Afghanistan are in shambles. A large part of the UN humanitarian work is providing healthcare.  

Medical and travel insurance may not come in handy in Afghanistan as the country does not have a proper processing system.  

Foreign aid workers who are in need of medical care are advised to return to their home country immediately.  

Who Can Travel to Afghanistan? 

Afghanistan is not a safe place to travel for civilians. Traveling for business and tourism can pose serious threats to the lives of citizens of foreign countries. 

Only humanitarian aid workers attached to organizations that have permission from the de facto government can travel to the country.  

Rescue Missions for the People of Afghanistan    

Several foreign nations have started rescue operations from Afghanistan.  Most foreigners from Afghanistan were rescued even before the Taliban invaded Kabul, the capital of the country.  

The US and its NATO allies have put in place detailed plans to rescue eligible Afghan citizens.  

The US government is issuing visas to eligible Afghan citizens to stay temporarily in the country through USCIS.  

Priority is given to the Afghan relatives of American citizens and permanent residents.  

Similarly, the UK government’s Afghan resettlement agreement provides eligible   citizens of Afghanistan a chance to relocate.  

Several other European and Asian countries like Netherlands and India are helping those who are fleeing the war-torn country.  

The Indian government has introduced an emergency electronic visa for Afghan citizens to enter the country.  

Likewise, the governments of Netherland, Australia and EU member states also provide visas to Afghan citizens who are eligible for transfer to those countries.        

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