Sikh family returned to shrinking frightened community!

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The Singh brothers deported from the Netherlands

Numerous messages sent by activists in the Netherlands informed AMASO about the return of a Sikh Afghan family from the Netherlands back to Afghanistan on 9th of October. Later that day, the family was deported back to Afghanistan after staying almost 2,5 years in the Netherlands. This is probably the only case AMASO has been directly involved in where a family from one of the most vulnerable minorities in Afghanistan has been sent back.

This deportation is wrong specifically for this family because of the particular risks to the Sikh and Hindu minorities, but also because of the deterioration in the general security situation in Kabul and the rest of the country.  The Taliban has gained more ground than ever and ISIS is targeting people belonging to sects other than their own, as well as other religions.

The family visited AMASO 3 days after their arrival in Afghanistan. Probably this was the first time they had come out of the temple since their return to Afghanistan. They family is frightened and doesn’t understand what their future will be in Afghanistan. According to Ehsan Shayegan, an Afghan researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization studying the minority religions of Kabul giving interview to Aljazeera for its recent article The Decline of Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh Communities  by Ruchi Kumar.

“If you go through the evidence and data from the 1970s to date, you will be able to see how drastically their population has fallen…In the 70s, there were around 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs, and now they are estimated to be less than 7,000,” Shayegan says.

In another part of the article a Sikh interviewee complains about the return of the warlords and the land grabbing: “Persecution started again, and several big and small warlords forcefully took away lands belonging to the Hindu and Sikh minorities”.

This is the exact situation that forced the family we met to flee the country. Their home in Kabul was grabbed by a warlord and they were forced to leave the area. They then stayed with a Muslim family because they had nowhere to live. The warlord and his men found them even there and warned them to leave the area or they would be killed.

The family that had hosted them said they would have to find somewhere else because they did not want to get caught in the conflict. The family fled the country and headed to Europe to ask for protection. Instead they were forcibly sent back to a country they would have a tough time to survive because the Dutch authorities made errors of judgement in their case (as they have in other recent cases).

The family is currently at the only temple in Kabul and will stay there until they have a safe option to leave the country again.

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Afghan returnees and their painful stories …

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AMASO visited the hotel where the returnees are staying and met and interviewed at least 3 of those deported from Austria on 13 of Oct this year.
Hussain, one of the returnees from Austria was taken out of a hospital and brought straight to the airport to be returned back to Afghanistan. According to Hussain, He was unconscious throughout the journey and only knew he was deported when he woke up in Afghanistan. Hussain says” he has been bleeding many times since he has been returned to Afghanistan. His next appointment with the doctor was on 22nd of October.
 
Hussain had an operation on his left kidney and is suffering from severe pain now. His right kidney is also infected and needs to be operated. With no medical support and a place to stay, he is worried what will happen to him once he is out of the hotel, after few days.
Hussain’s both kidney’s are badly infected and needs urgent medical care. Hussain had his operation on his left kidney few months ago and was recovering from it, when one day the police entered his apartment, handcuffed him and brought him to a hospital. He had pipes installed from the previous operation for him to recover fast. In the hospital, they took the pipe out in a hurry and handed over Hussain to the policemen, who were guarding him through out the process.
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Shinwari (left) and Safi (right) are two of the other returnees that have been deported along with 9 others from Austria. Shinwari has lived in Austria for 2 and half years. Shinwari’s brother was also present at the hotel when we met Shinwari. He has come to Kabul to meet his brother.
 
Shinwari’s brother however wasn’t there to receive Shinwari. Instead, he was there to tell him not to return back home, because of the fear of Taliban and ISIS. He fears Shinwari can be easily targeted knowing that he has returned back from Europe and can be labelled as a spy or infidel. According to Shinwari’s brother; the area they are living is in control of Taliban and ISIS, therefore it is not a good idea for his brother to return home now. 
Life threat is however not the only tension Shinwari has. He also fears he may have to pay back to those from whom he had borrowed money to get to Europe. Shinwari had borrowed a large sum of money to get out of Afghanistan, now that he as been deported, he doesn’t know how to give that money back. We keep hearing the same question from Shinwari through out the meeting, many times.
” I can not return back home, what will happen to me after i am out of the hotel, what should i do, where should i go, i have no one in Kabul” 
Safi (right) has been deported back to Afghanistan after almost 9 years. Safi said; everything was ok and there was no fear of deportation until the Afghan government made a deal with the EU in 2015 and suddenly everything was changed for Afghans. Now that i have been deported, i have not been to my family yet.
” I don’t know how to go home and tell them that i have been deported back to Afghanistan after 9 years, i am currently staying with my cousin and don’t know how long would i stay with him, and that would i actually be able to return to my parents at or not?, i am so lost” , said Safi

Deported to uncertainty and hopelessness

 

 

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Deportation from EU to Afghanistan has been criticized for a long time now. The reason is obvious, the deteriorating security situation and the loss of civilian lives has been at its pick since UNAMA  started counting in 2009. The level of uncertainty about the future of the current government is certainly one of the other reasons one can’t ignore, one of the very reasons that forced thousands flee the country in 2015.

Adults, young Afghan asylum seekers and families have been deported in hundreds over the past few years. Recently and after the “Joint Way Forward” deal was signed between the EU and Afghanistan, the number has gone dramatically high. Countries like Austria, Finland and the Netherlands that used to deport very few have also accelerated deportation.

Some of these young asylum seekers recently deported are setting foot in Afghanistan for the first time. They may have been born in Iran or Pakistan, or may have been too young to remember anything about this country. These are the most vulnerable group of returnees who end up in a war torn country with no family or social network, this is the group that literally end re-migrating as soon as possible and get on the same dangerous journey once they have failed.

Rahmat Achekzai, deported from the Netherlands two weeks ago is still lost in to the unknown and uncertainty. The hopelessness and the intentions of ending his life was easy to be read from his face and heard from his words within conversations we had with him in our office in Kabul. That is maybe the less to expected from a young boy who has lost his father at the age of 9 and mother on the journey to Europe in 2010.

Achekzai, his mother and the younger brother went to Iran in 2008. They went to Greece in 2010. He lost his mother when their boat sank trying to get in to Italy. His younger brother was luckily saved. Achekzai and his younger brother entered the Netherlands by the end of 2014. The brother was granted asylum, but he was refused.

He is now sent back to Afghanistan and his younger brother is back in the Netherlands. According to Acheckzai, his deportation was planned for 19th of May, but he was deported 6 days before the confirmed date. The authorities at the Kabul International Airport or IOM were unaware of his deportation until he landed in Kabul.

During the conversation with Achekzai, we could feel his level of depression and loneliness he and brother has been through. Now they are separated and he has been sent to an unknown future, hopelessness and uncertainty.

 

 

 

EU ambassador to Afghanistan – Kabul is a safe city!

France/24 recently did a short documentary on the situation of those deported to Afghanistan. They visited AMASO and interviewed a family who were deported to Afghanistan in October 2016. The family were close to an attack that nearly killed them all. The attack that was carried out in a Mosque in West of Kabul killed at least 30 people and left more than 100 people wounded. According to the latest contact AMASO had with the family, the family were leaving the country and heading for Iran.

AMASO however finds the statement of the EU Ambassador Mr. Franz Michael irresponsible and opposite to the facts in the ground. In a part of the interview answering the French journalist about the safety of Kabul , the EU ambassadors states that;

“It is safe to the kind of safety we can expect around the world. As i said before, we experience large scale terrorist attacks on civilian populations in Europe, we experience it in Kabul. That is the part of a daily risk we all live with” 

The comparison that the EU ambassador has pointed out in the interview is unfair and unrealistic. Since the start of the year 2017, Kabul has witnessed several suicide and deadly attacks that has left dozens killed and injured.

On 10th of January 2017 a suicide attack took place close to the Afghan parliament, targeting the parliament employees mainly. The attack killed 30 and left more than 70 wounded.

Only after a month since the attack in January, another attack was reported on the supreme court of the Afghanistan. This time the suicide bomber blew himself on one of the entrances of the Supreme court. According to Guardian, this attack killed 21 and injured another 40 people.

On 8th of March, 4 to 5 militants stormed at Afghanistan’s largest military hospital, killing everyone at the hospital indiscriminately. 30 more Afghans, mostly civilians were killed by the attack and around 50 people were wounded. The siege continued for at least 6 hours, until the security forces took full control of the hospital.

The very recent of the attacks was twin suicide attacks that occurred in two different locations in Kabul on 1st of March 2017. One of the attacks targeted PD6 police station situated in the West of Kabul killing 16 and injuring dozens. Shortly after, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of an Afghan intelligence agency branch in eastern Kabul as another attacker was gunned down while trying to enter the compound, according to the ministry.

Despite the fact that there has been few incidents in Paris or in Berlin which has left few injured is no comparison with the number of people killed and injured alone in Kabul. Civilians in Afghanistan are at a great risk of being victim of one these attack and returnees are no exception. Therefore, we find the statement not only unfair, but also far from the reality in the ground.