Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, May 26th, 2017

The Challenges of Afghan Refugees

The interminable war and violence in Afghanistan forced a large number of Afghan people to take refuge to foreign countries. Abandoning the country seemed the only panacea for the problem since the nascent democracy could not ensure the rights and freedoms of the citizens. On the other hand, the economic stagnation and mass unemployment within the two past years aggravated the challenges. Life turned really difficult and people could hardly make the ends meet.

With the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG), the rift between state and nation widened to a great extent. Perhaps, it was not due to the mismanagement of the NUG, but the end of NATO’s war mission and withdrawal of the US forces and many NGOs – this signaled the failure of “war on terror” and triggered a strong sense of disappointment among the public. Foreign troops withdrew from the country while the militancy still could inflict casualties upon combatants and non-combatants alike.

Although Afghanistan’s Constitution was approved and people elected the president and their representatives through election, there was much left to be done and insecurity was and still is a great cause for concern. Subsequently, Afghan citizens, mainly the youths, headed to take refuge in other countries.

Now the question is that have their dreams come true in foreign countries? The public exodus from many war-torn countries, including Iraq and Syria, created great challenges both for foreign countries and Afghan asylum seekers. Scores of Afghan citizens live in international camps in many countries without knowing about their fate. Of course, they risked their lives and spent a large amount of money to reach Europe. Spending many years in camps, some are deported and some other fluctuate between fear and hope – this is a really excruciating pain.

Based on reports, two more planes carrying Afghans deported from Europe have arrived in Kabul after their asylum request was rejected under an agreement between the European Union and Afghan government. Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, said that the arrivals mean 248 people have been deported from Europe to Afghanistan this year, compared with 580 throughout 2016.

Fifteen deportees arrived by chartered flight from Germany on Tuesday, while 19 landed on Wednesday from Austria and 10 from Sweden. Another flight, from Finland, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. European governments say those deported back have failed rigorous asylum tests, and that major cities like Kabul are sufficiently safe.

The EU signed an agreement with the Afghan government in October allowing its member states to deport an unlimited number of asylum seekers, and obliging the Afghan government to receive them.
The agreement states while a maximum of 50 non-voluntary deportees per chartered flight in the first six months after the agreement, there is no limit to the number of daily deportation flights European governments can charter to Kabul.
Even as the number of Afghan deportees is rising, it still remains less compared to the thousands returning voluntarily. Nearly 55,000 migrants and refugees who were not eligible for or were likely to be denied asylum left Germany voluntarily in 2016.

Afghans were the second largest group of asylum seekers in Europe in 2015, and concerns about security and their integration have encouraged politicians to take a tougher line. However, last month Germany reported seeing an immense drop in the arrival of asylum seekers in the country, with the total number in 2016 down to less than a third of the 890,000 who arrived in 2015.

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation launched an ongoing campaign “AKhpal Watan, Gul Watan” (our country, beautiful country) urging all refugees to return back to their homeland as it “needs you in reconstruction of Afghanistan”. However, the questions are that will the returnees’ rights and freedoms be protected? Will they be employed? Despite insisting on their return, the government cannot assure their security and employment. There seems no stronger strategy for combating terrorism and people still lose their lives under the unmitigated militancy. In other words, the Taliban’s intensified attacks on one hand, and the firm foothold of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the other hand, leave little room for optimism and hope for a safe life.

It is believed that persisting on refugees to return without paving the ground for them will be counterproductive. Poverty and unemployment will force them into crime and corruption. It should be noted that many members of terrorist groups come from poor background. In brief, they joined terrorist parties to alleviate their economic challenges rather than exercising an ideology. No wonder, no effective strategy for combating terrorism or tackling the economic crises will widen the gap between state and nation.

To narrow the rift between state and nation and prevent from the exodus, the government will have to protect the rights and liberty of the citizens and create job for them. Turning a blind eye to the roots of challenges will be an egregious error. So, at least, Afghanistan’s allies must focus on combating insurgency and strengthen democratic bases so that Afghan citizens do not abandon the country. Otherwise, signing contract with foreign countries to deport refugees will aggravate the problem. The state should tackle this problem more wisely.