ONE of Gibraltar’s most prominent businessmen is behind a daring rescue mission that has successfully extracted 92 people from Afghanistan and imminent danger at the hands of the Taliban, across the border to safety in Pakistan.
Gregory Butcher, owner of the World Trade Center Gibraltar part-funded the rescue mission dubbed ‘Operation Magic Carpet’ to bring out Afghanis who had worked alongside coalition forces before the American led withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
Among those brought to safety were 60 staff members and their families who had worked for the international arm of the animal welfare charity Mayhew London, whose patron is Megan Markle.
The Mayhew Afghanistan project was registered as an NGO in Kabul in 2016 and the team of locally trained vets captured, neutered and vaccinated over 20,000 dogs before the project suddenly came to an end when international troops pulled out in August, leaving the staff and their families in danger.
“They and their children were desperate to leave and were without any hope of doing so, so we teamed up with those other kind people to try and get a total of 92 people out of Afghanistan,” explained Butcher, who part-funded the mission.
“They were all at risk of retribution at the hands of the Taliban and needed to be rescued as well. At World Trade Center Gibraltar, we believe that large corporations have a specific role to play in society, one of humanitarian action, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility,”
The complex and dangerous evacuation took over 2 months to complete, during a period which has seen Afghanistan spiral into escalating violence and economic collapse. But the 92 people, including 33 children and several newborn babies all arrived safely at temporary accommodation in Islamabad on December 8.
British based animal welfare campaigner Dominic Dyer, internationally recognised for his work in evacuating Pen Farthing and his Nowzad employees and animals from Kabul in August played a leading role in the rescue operation working alongside a British vet and a Jerusalem based translator.
Operation Magic Carpet was the largest privately funded humanitarian evacuation mission undertaken since the Taliban retook Kabul.
“It was conducted by an experienced extraction team in an increasingly hostile environment, with a rapidly closing window, amidst eye-witness reports of raids of properties and neighbourhoods in the immediate vicinity to these individuals,” said a statement announcing the success of the operation.
“It’s been hard thinking what might have happened to them had we all not intervened. Their new lives and future are filled with uncertainty, and now we need to urgently get these brave now-stateless English-speaking people into a refugee resettlement program,” said Butcher.
“The World Trade Center Gibraltar is now raising funds to offer vital help to those whose lives have been shattered by conflict and disaster, as they commence a new chapter in their lives,” he added. “Can you help us?”