How the EU facilitates deportations to the most dangerous country in the world

In 2016, the EU and Afghanistan signed the Joint Way Forward Agreement during the Brussels Donor Conference. The aim is to facilitate deportations to Afghanistan.

It is an informal, non-binding legal instrument, and the European Parliament was not involved in its agreement. Because the agreement expired on 6 October this year, the EU wants to negotiate a two-year extension until the end of 2020. 

Afghanistan has been rocked by war for over 40 years, forcing millions of Afghans to leave their country over the decades. Contrary to the pervasive narrative, however, the vast majority of Afghan refugees have sought shelter in surrounding countries such as Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. Thus, Afghanistan represents those worldwide second largest refugee population to civil war-torn Syria. 

People have good reasons to flee Afghanistan. For the second year in a row, Afghanistan was named the "most dangerous country in the world" classified." The reasons for this include the ongoing violent conflicts between the Taliban and the Afghan government, as well as regular terrorist attacks on civilians. Thus died in 2019 over 3,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 were seriously injured.

Therefore, the recognition rate of Afghan refugees in the EU last stood at 58% in August this year. However, the recognition rates in the individual member states vary drastically. For example, the recognition rate of Afghan refugees is in Italy 94% and in Bulgaria 4%. In many media and also in the EU Commission, there is constant talk of "illegal migrants and economic migrants", although the majority are refugees fleeing terror and have a very realistic claim to protection under EU legislation. Also the The German Government continues to take the viewAfghanistan is a country to which one can deport and thus deliberately turns a blind eye to the situation on the ground. Many human rights organisations and lawyers call for the Deportations to Afghanistan as Infringement of the prohibition of non-refoulement laid down by law (non-refoulement): in other words, people may not be deported to countries where they are threatened with torture or other serious human rights violations.

Deportation to an unknown country

Furthermore, the Joint Way Forward Agreement ignores the reality of Afghan refugees. As already mentioned, many Afghans live in the surrounding countries and have been doing so for decades, so that there are repeated deportations of refugees who have not yet left Afghanistan. have never set foot in and have to find their way around in a completely foreign country. In addition, despite official requirements and international and EU legislation, there are more and more reports of Deportations of young women and children who are abandoned in the streets of Kabul and thus abandoned to a fate of destitution and renewed flight. Moreover, time and again the Suspicion expressed that financial development assistance to the Afghan Government linked to deportations will. We do not need more deportations to Afghanistan, but rather a a better European asylum systemSecondly, there is a need to ensure that protection seekers are granted their rights, for example by introducing equal recognition quotas across the EU, based on the actual situation on the ground. Secondly, informal agreements must also complied with the law for example, the non-refoulement ban and the non-refoulement of persons in need of special protection, also in recognition of the complexity of Afghan migration. In addition, financial development aid must under no circumstances be tied to deportations. Last but not least, the successor programme must be adopted in a legally binding manner in democratic agreement with the European Parliament and monitored through regular evaluations.

Peace negotiations between government and Taliban

For decades, the Afghan people have longed for an end to violence and conflict, and never before have the Afghan government and the Taliban sat down to negotiate a possible peace. Both sides seem to have realized that there is no military solution can give. 

Thus, on 29 February 2020, the Doha Agreement was reached, in which agreement was reached on the initiation of intra-Afghan peace negotiations. Particular attention was paid to ensuring that the negotiations take place without outside influence from states such as Russia or the US. Despite the forthcoming negotiations, Afghanistan has continued to be affected in recent months by above-average violence and many people died, although the population had hoped for a ceasefire. In particular, the last five weeks before the start of the negotiations were described by experts as the most difficult. most dangerous weeks in the last five years in terms of the quantity and brutality of violence. The Doha Agreement is also accompanied by the gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the US troop presence, as this is a basic condition for the Taliban to participate in the peace talks. Currently, about 4,500 of the original 13,000 troops remain in the country. Nevertheless, the election of Joe Biden as US president now raises many unanswered questions, as the Doha deal was negotiated under the Trump administration and Biden had said during the campaign that he wanted to maintain a small troop presence in Afghanistan. 

Now, the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in Doha on September 12, 2020. The start of the substantive negotiations has been delayed since then, as they have so far been dominated by structural and procedural conflicts and disputes over the agenda are characterized. The stakes are particularly high for women: from 1996 to 2001, women lived under lock and key during the Taliban regime and were only allowed to leave their homes when accompanied by a male guardian. Since 2001, with the invasion of US troops, the situation has changed and women have increasingly taken part in social life again. Today, Afghan civil society thrives on committed, educated women and the big concern is that Taliban involvement in government would undo all the work of the last 20 years in this area. The Afghan government has a total of only four women at the negotiating table, while the Taliban are all men.

It is impossible to predict the next steps of the peace negotiations, but the civilian population is longing for a CeasefireHowever, this is on condition that fundamental rights are not compromised in the peace process and that criminals from the ranks of the Taliban and the Afghan governments are finally prosecuted. Despite the peace talks, attacks on civilians continue, such as the bloodbath at Kabul University on 2 November. 

Terrorist attack in Kabul University – Attack on the future of Afghanistan

On the same day as the attack in Vienna, there was a terrorist attack on Kabul University. Three gunmen stormed the university and shot at the students. It took the security forces and the arriving military six hours to secure the campus. Twenty-two students were killed and 27 others were injured. badly hurt. Even if those responsible have not yet been clearly identified, this is driving a wedge into the peace negotiations, which are already getting off to a difficult start. There are initial calls to boycott the negotiations in Doha, for example under the hashtag #BoycottDohaTalks or in the form of protests against the government, which has been unable to protect the young people. One of the demands is not to make a deal with the Taliban. It remains to be seen how the chain of violence will continue and how it will affect the peace negotiations.

Afghan refugees in Europe

The situation of Afghan refugees in Europe is fatal. Half of all refugees on the Greek islands comes from Afghanistan. It is widely known that the conditions in the completely overcrowded camps as well as in the new Moria are absolutely inhumane and untenable. Many have been there for many months or even years, some children were even born there. They are either waiting to apply for asylum or for it to be processed. The application for family reunification, for example, turns out to be a long, rocky road for many Afghan families, because the Federal Office for Migration and Asylum in Germany often rejects such applications unjustly and the people concerned usually lack access to legal counsel to appeal. 

If their application for asylum is granted, the Greek authorities transfer some of the protection seekers to mainland Greece, but without housing them. Instead, many Afghan refugees and families live in homelessness on the streets of Athens, receiving only makeshift assistance from local non-governmental organizations. But it is precisely this assistance that is proving particularly difficult at the moment, as Athens is once again in lockdown and aid workers can only distribute meals and other goods in secret.

Furthermore, in October of this year, Greece and Afghanistan agreed on a Memorandumwhich is supposed to facilitate the deportation of "illegal migrants" to Afghanistan in the future – a shocking development considering the dangerous situation in Afghanistan. Also the situation on the Balkan route is a human rights disaster. The Afghan refugees there are part of a cruel game of cat and mouse. They try to enter the EU via Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, only to be brutally deported back to Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Croatian border police or in so-called chain deportations from Italy, Austria or Slovenia. For years now, reports have been accumulating of Torture and violence by Croatian border police officerswhich are repeatedly rejected by the Croatian government as spurious. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, many refugees live in empty houses or in the cold, wet forests, where they sleep under tarpaulins – including families with children. Just as in Greece, humanitarian workers are largely prohibited from assisting refugees. Especially with the upcoming winter, another humanitarian catastrophe is looming.