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Thousands of Afghan refugees stuck at US bases in Germany

October 4, 2021

More than 9,000 people are stranded at military bases in Ramstein and Kaiserslautern. Washington suspended flights when measles were detected among evacuees landing in the US.

A US soldier stands by as an Afghan women gets off a bus at Ramstein Air Base
The US military vaccinated nearly 9,000 refugees against mumps, measles, rubella and chicken pox at German bases Image: Oliver Dietze/dpa(picture alliance

The Federal Interior Ministry in Berlin announced Monday that 9,139 Afghan refugees were currently stuck at US military bases in Germany owing to a suspension of evacuation flights by the Biden administration. 

Berlin's Foreign Ministry confirmed that the refugees were scheduled for evacuation but flights had been stopped in September after cases of measles were detected among Afghans arriving in the US. Berlin says none of the Afghans currently stranded at Ramstein Air Base and the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern had been promised admission to Germany.

Refugees housed at the bases have now received vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox according to the US military. The vaccination of more that 8,800 individuals was completed ahead of schedule on Sunday and carried out at the request of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The US is expected to resume flights this Friday. Ramstein serves as one of Washington's main flight hubs between Afghanistan — now controlled by the Islamist Taliban — and the US, the other being in Qatar.  

Officials at Ramstein have confirmed only one case of measles among evacuees in their care. The US 86th Airlift Wing on Monday said: "Ramstein is equipped to expeditiously resume flights once given approval to do so."

Ramstein Air Base serves as the headquarters for the US Air Forces in Europe, Africa and for NATO Allied Air Command. The broader Kaiserslautern Military Community in and around the base is the largest US community overseas.

js/msh (AP, dpa)