By: Abdul Ghafoor
Afghan civil society activists and a number of families and adults who were recently deported from various European countries held a press conference in Kabul today, to share their concerns about the deal that was recently signed between the Afghan government and the EU. The deal, if implemented, will allow the EU to deport thousands of Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan.
The activists called on both the EU and Afghan government to stop implementing the deal. They said:
‘Afghanistan is already struggling to provide basic needs to millions of returnees and deportees from neighboring countries. There is at least 1.3 million Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan, who have left their villages and provinces due to insurgent attacks and deteriorating security situation. Tens of thousands have fled Kunduz, Helmand, Baghlan in recent weeks. Most of those internally displaced are living in open air with no proper shelter, accommodation or food’.
Abdul Ghafoor, director at Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization said ‘most of those who were forcibly returned from various European countries including UK, Norway and other Scandinavian countries in the past couple of years have already re-migrated, unable to remain in Afghanistan’. He continued ‘faced with so many challenges, Afghanistan cannot manage this large number of returnees’. Faced with destitution here, the only option these returnees have is to leave the country and take the dangerous journey again.
Afghan Civil Society also emphasized on stopping deportation from Germany which is planned by the end of this month. Rumors suggest Germany is planning to deport the at least 50 Afghan refugees on 27th of October through a charter flight. The charter plane is planned at a time, where none of the points mentioned in the deal have been implemented yet. The deportation, if implemented will create a chaos for both the returnees and the Afghan government.
“Joint way forward” the EU and Afghanistan deal on return of Afghan national from the EU
Afghan migration is once again at the top of the political agenda. It has been a hot topic for many decades now. Over decades millions of Afghans have had to flee various conflicts. Today Afghans make up the second largest refugee population in Europe after Syria. Alone in 2015, 196,170 sought asylum in Europe.
Those who have fled Afghanistan recently include unaccompanied Afghan youth (the largest national group in Europe), families and other vulnerable groups of people. Seeking safety, work to allow them to survive, and hope for their future, they risk a dangerous journey to reach Europe. Many families have lost their loved ones en route. Whole families were drowned, and young boys have been beaten, sexually assaulted, tear gassed, robbed and shot crossing Iranian, Turkish and European borders. There were many Afghans among the 4,000 people who drowned last year in the Mediterranean Sea, and the 3,000+ who have died so far this year.
In spite of all these risks, many Afghans reached Europe, especially Germany where at first they were welcome. However, other countries failed to show the same generosity as Mrs Merkel, and so Germany received almost all the Afghans coming in the last year, plus many, many Syrians. Last month, angry that they alone were sheltering refugees, Germans punished Mrs Merkel in the German elections. Under pressure from other European states and her own party and government, Mrs Merkel called President Ghani personally last week and told him to sign.
Afraid that aid to Afghanistan would be cut, in spite of strong opposition from the Minister of Refugees, the Afghan parliament agreed to accept the deal on Sunday and it was signed that night by deputy Minister for Refugees, Dr Alema. Now, any Afghan whose case is not accepted will be quickly returned back to Afghanistan under a joint agreement between Afghanistan and EU called “Joint way forward”.
We at civil society have gathered today to share our concerns regarding this deal that will put lives of thousands of people at stake.
- The deal has been processed in an un-democratic way by the EU. The agreement was not submitted for scrutiny to the parliament of the European Union or any European state. Refugee rights organizations, supporters and defenders had no chance to argue against it.
- We have concerns Afghanistan is being used as a test case, and this policy will be used against refugees across the world.
- Afghanistan is already struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of people returning from the neighboring countries. The government and international agencies are struggling to provide them with basic needs such as shelter and food. There is no infrastructure in place that would guarantee they will have a place to stay and job to survive. On the other hand there are at least 1.3 million IDPs currently in different part of Afghanistan, most of whom due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.
- Frontex will be responsible for managing the returns. Based on our experience and the accounts of the returnees met over the past several years, Frontex have been mistreating returnees during deportation process. Our concern is that deporting large number of refugees will be a massive challenge and hiring new employees for Frontex without proper training can put the safety of returnees at risk.
- In another part of the deal it has been mentioned that EU will support Afghanistan in creating job opportunities for the returnees. This is not the first time such promises have been made and yet there has been very little effect on the lives of the returnees. With unemployment for the general population so high, how can the problem of returnees be solved with poor and short-term employment programs. This sort of small packages wouldn’t be enough for migrants who have spent thousands of dollars to reach one of the European countries. As a result, the only option for the returnees would be to re-migrate.
- Finally, recent studies such as “ After Return “ (RSN 2016), “what happens post-deportation” (Schuster & Majidi 2013, 2014) demonstrate that deportation to Afghanistan up to now has been a failure. A large number of those who have been returned over the past several years have already re-migrated, they are either in the neighboring countries, Iran or Pakistan, or further in to Turkey or another European country.
We believe this is not a good time for a deal like the “Joint Way Forward “. 24 hours after the deal was signed, Kunduz fell to the Taliban. It is clear the security situation is deteriorating and it will create more chaos and challenges for both the Afghan government and the EU once thousands of people are deported to Afghanistan with no basic infrastructure and livelihood in place.
Currently, Kunduz, Helmand, Farah, Uruzgan, Zabul, Baghlan, Faryab and many other provinces are facing insurgent attacks which clearly indicates volatile security situation of Afghanistan. We believe the government doesn’t have any sort of preparation to be able to accommodate a high number of returnees from Europe, amidst deteriorating security situation in the country. Choosing such a deal at this time is clearly not an ideal solution for both the returnees and the government. It will only create more problems and chaos for the both the returnees and the Afghan government.