Afghan returnee “caught between the choices of re – migration or fighting for survival”

*Hassan was deported from Norway to Afghanistan in 2018. He went to Norway when he was only 15 years old and was deported to Afghanistan when he was 19. According to him, he hadn’t committed any crime and was only deported due to the agreements between the Afghan and the Norwegian government.

Since his return, he has already tried once to flee the country. When he was deported, he was in Kabul for a short time, but didn’t see any chance of survival. So he decided to go to Iran. He stayed in Iran for almost 1 year where he worked and saved some money before he went to Turkey. He lived in Turkey for few months, but was arrested and deported from Turkey back to Afghanistan. He is currently lying on a hospital bed in Daikundi province recovering from the wound he sustained on his right hand as a result of a bullet shot.

The Taliban have been advancing and taking over many districts and have ambushed some major cities like Kanhdahar, Mazar e Sharif and Herat in the past couple of months. They have also attacked some of the safest provinces like Daikundi and Bamyan. The current waves of attacks all around Afghanistan have caused a civil uprising where people are forced to take up arms and fight the terrorist group. Daikundi hasn’t stayed safe from the Taliban attack either and has been attacked on several fronts. People in Daikundi have also been taking up arms to help the Afghan security forces. According to Hassan, the Afghan security forces provided the civilians with weapons and ammunition to stand against the Taliban.

Hassan had also joined the cause to stand against the terrorist group and defend his home town of Daikundi. One night, the Taliban attacked the check post where Hassan was stationed. All of the people present with Hassan at the checkpoint were either killed or injured during that night. Hassan received a bullet in his right hand. Since that incident, he has been thinking of finding ways to get out of the country again and find safety. According to Hassan, he has never witnessed death from so close ever before.

Afghanistan, a war zone

Hassan’s story is the story of so many in Afghanistan today, regardless of whether the person concerned is an ex – asylum seeker or not. This situation was foreseeable and those living in Afghanistan feared the return of such days. Uncertainty and the deteriorating security situation have always been two of the major push factors for the Afghan migrants. But for young boys like Hassan there was a hope they would be granted asylum and protection from the evil. In response, they faced cold heartedness from the European authorities. Thousands of young boys like Hassan have had their faith in Europe betrayed and have been forcefully deported back to Afghanistan.  

For thousands of those deported over the past several years, deportation was not the end of a migration cycle, but start of a new dangerous journey to safety. Some of those I have worked with have already found safety in one of the other European countries and some of those deported are struggling to find a means

 of survival and safety in the country. For Hassan, witnessing death from so close, there is no future for him in this country and his only way out of this disaster is to get out of the country, once again.

He says’ once he recovers and gets out of the hospital, he will come to Kabul and will decide how and where to go.

* HASSAN is not his real name and is used to save his identity

Press statement | Austria

Austria and Germany have been pressuring the Afghan government and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation to accept returns to Afghanistan. The pressure started building after the Ministry sent an official letter to all the European and non – European countries that regularly deport Afghans, to halt deportation to Afghanistan for at least 3 months, starting from the 8th of July.

Several countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway agreed to temporarily halt deportations to Afghanistan. However, Germany and Austria started putting unimaginable pressure on the Afghan government to ignore the current crisis and allow them to continue forcibly returning Afghans.

On July 27th 2021, Germany’s envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Jasper Wieck visited the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation to urge the Minister to allow the deportation of 10 Afghans to go ahead. He has argued that there is an upcoming election in Germany and his government needs this symbolic gesture. He has also stated that all of those included in the upcoming charter will be people with criminal records (but similar claims have been made in the past when group deportations have included people without convictions). According to sources in Germany, these deportations are scheduled for 10th of August.  

Austria has been putting the same kind of pressure on the Afghan authorities to accept deportation to Afghanistan. According to reliable sources both inside Austria and Afghanistan the Austrian government has threatened to close the Afghanistan Embassy in Vienna if Afghanistan refuses to accept deportation to Afghanistan.

As a result of the pressure put on the Afghan government, MoRR has now agreed to allow 2 charter planes from Austria, the first of which is scheduled for tomorrow, 3rd of August 2021, and to accept the deportation of 10 Afghans a week later from Germany.  And all of this against the backdrop of increasing violence, which has now moved to the cities.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

Fighting has intensified all around Afghanistan, with at least half of rural districts in the hands of Taliban. Not only the smaller districts and villages, Taliban have launched attacks on key provincial capitals, such as Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat. Herat, the third biggest city in Afghanistan has been a battleground for the last 4 to 5 days, with residents reporting bodies lying in the streets, the Khawaja Abdullah Ansari airport (the only route in and out of the besieged city) closed and an attack on the UN compound.

In this frightening and unstable situation, when hundreds of thousands of Afghans are being displaced by the fighting, we expect countries like Germany and Austria, as they abandon Afghanistan and close their borders to refugees, to at least issue temporary protection status to Afghans already there and to allow them to seek work to try and support their families who are in crisis, as Afghan refugees have done throughout the decades.