Statement against EU-Afghanistan agreement on deporting Afghan Asylum seekersThe ongoing violence in Afghanistan is the biggest driving force for Afghans seeking a new life elsewhere. As a result, almost 200,000 Afghans have claimed asylum in Europe in 2015, which makes them the second largest asylum seekers in Europe, after Syria.
With the rise of Islamic State in Afghanistan, the continued military attacks of Taliban in northern Afghanistan, the withdrawal of international forces and a lack of effective policy from the current Unity government, the situation in Afghanistan is very critical. In light of these challenges, there has been a massive influx of Afghan refugees risking their lives to reach EU and elsewhere.
A high percentage of asylum seekers belong to vulnerable religious groups, women and children, who have been victims of extremist groups like Daesh and the Taliban. The deteriorating security situation has lead to fears of sectarian war amongst Afghans. This is the main concern for ethnic Hazaras, a distinct ethnic religious group, who have been victims of multiple massacres carried out by the Taliban regime. This is very alarming as such extremist groups believe that Shia Hazaras are infidels. There are hundreds of cases of violence perpetrated by extremist groups against the Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past ten years. In the last few months, this community has been directly under attack by ISIS during their peaceful demonstration on 23 July 2016 and their Ashura religious festival on 11 and 12 of October. At these incidents, more than 150 people were killed and hundreds were injured.
The overall situation of Afghanistan in post-2016 remains uncertain. The security situation has gradually deteriorated and more areas fall into the hands of the Taliban at the expense of innocent civilians. In the last 9 months, more than 2500 civilians have lost their lives across the country. In the past week, the Taliban have taken more territory and attacked two districts in central Afghanistan; areas which were safe and under no Taliban influence. The north and central parts of Afghanistan are no longer safe, whilst Kunduz and other areas in the north are under frequent attack. Such conditions have made it very difficult for Afghans to not flee their homes in the hope of a better life.
Despite these challenges, the EU has signed an agreement with the Afghan government to deport almost 80,000 Afghan asylum seekers back to Afghanistan. The Joint Way Forward agreement even allows deportation of women, children, and vulnerable ethnic groups. There has been little consultation with Human Rights agencies and refugee organizations in Europe before this agreement came into effect. The EU has used continued developmental aid to Afghanistan as a bargaining tool to send asylum seekers back to their home nations. This happened despite the fact that the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation refused to sign the document, leaving the duty to a deputy.
We have gathered here today to raise our voice against this agreement.
1) We strongly condemn the Joint Way forward agreement and believe it is not democratic and in direct violation of human rights.
2) We urge the EU to not make developmental aid to Afghanistan subject to the exchange of asylum seekers.
3) We request EU to consider the reality on the ground and pay serious attention to the current security deterioration of in Afghanistan and the emergence of sectarian war in the country.
4) The returnees are vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups like Daesh and the Taliban, local strongmen commanding militias, and neighboring countries for proxy war in the region.
5) A majority of these asylum seekers were born or grew up in Iran or Pakistan and therefore will struggle to reintegrate in Afghanistan, rehabilitate or to find employment.
6) The Afghan government does not have the capacity and means to protect the safety of the returnees and provide basic needs to live. Currently there are more than 1.5 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country and the government are not able to help them.
World Hazara Council