The world is once again gathering for a Donors’ Convention on Afghanistan on 23 – 24 November, this time in Geneva, Switzerland. The participants and donors will make promises to continue supporting the Afghan government, and, as usual, they will make a series of demands of demands on the Afghan government in exchange for that support. In 2016, at the last donors’ conference in Brussels, a key demand was that the Afghan government sign the Joint Way Forward, an agreement to facilitate forced removals to Afghanistan and to prevent further migration from Afghanistan. We are extremely concerned that this hugely problematic agreement will be renewed. there will be anything discussed about the situation of Afghan refugees in Europe.
Less than a week before the conference, rockets have rained down on Kabul, three weeks before an attack on Kabul University killed 35 people. Terror, and the challenges of surviving existentially is driving Afghans out of the country. For many families, the knowledge that their younger members are safely away is their only comfort and source of hope.
The JWF agreement imposed on the Afghan government was an immoral and incompetent step away from the principles of the original Geneva Agreement signed almost 70 years ago, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which between them guaranteed the right to seek and to enjoy asylum, to not be refouled to countries where one’s life and liberty were in danger.
Therefore, we request the European countries and donors of the Geneva Convention to have the current and ongoing situation in Afghanistan in mind and to abandon the Joint Way Forward agreement and instead concentrate on the creation of safe, legal routes for in need of protection.
Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization
23rd November 2020
 This was denied by the EU High Representative, but it has been comprehensively demonstrated by journalists and scholars that the funding was dependent on signing the Agreement. It was signed the night before the conference after phone calls from the British and German heads of government.
On 14th of November 2020, we successfully organized our first workshop on Afghan migration and deportation to Afghanistan. The aim of this workshop was to create awareness among the Afghan people about the situation of Afghan refugee in Europe, the journey they go through and the dangers they face during and after the flight. We then talked about European laws and defined the term Refugee in light of the 1951 convention and its 1967 protocol and the situation of those who are deported from various European countries to Afghanistan.
Participants of the workshop included university students, researchers, deportees and those interested in the issue of migration. The level of participation and enthusiasm was encouraging. Participants had a positive feedback to the workshop and shared their comments and suggestions by the end of the workshop. Participants were mainly interested on the current migration regime in Europe and legal ways of migration.
Monitoring officer of AMASO, Ms Zahra Rezaie started the workshop with the introduction of AMASO and explained our activities. She then explained the outline of the workshop and stated why organizing a workshop at this point of time was necessary.
Director of AMASO went on next and explained why an asylum seeker is deported to Afghanistan? To make sure everybody knew exactly how to treat if someone is deported. He emphasized, all of those deported to Afghanistan are neither criminals, nor have they done something wrong. In an Afghan context, those who have been deported should/may have done something wrong, that is why they have been deported to Afghanistan.
Those deported are often asked’ why did you cousin, friend or relative got asylum and you are deported. You may have done something wrong that is why you have been deported.
Director of AMASO explained the laws and encouraged the participants to understand the terminology and then pass the information to their families and members of the society. Deportees already go through too many hardships and tough times, they shouldn’t be stigmatized any more than that.
Peace of Mind Afghanistan
Peace of Mind Afghanistan was also kind enough to join our workshop and talk about the mental stress refugees go through and the stigma deportees face once they are deported to Afghanistan. AMASO and PoMA has a long term support experience and have shared ideas and cases of deportees previously, and hopefully in the future, whenever needed.
Ms. Lyla Schwartz the director of Peace of Mind Afghanistan held a session and explained the work PoMA is doing in Afghanistan. Ms. Lyla shortly shared some of her experience working with refugees in Greece and Switzerland. She also shared her personal experience of the impact hopelessness, uncertainty can have on the lives of refugees waiting for their asylum cases to be reviewed.
During the session, Lyla also agreed to have a joint weekly/monthly session for deportees in need with cooperation of AMASO. The participants at the workshop welcomed the idea and showed their full support to implement it. Some of the participants shared their own personal experience after deportation. 1 of the participants said’ despite one year of his deportation, he is still in stress and suffers from anxiety. Another participant, also deportees said; one of his roommates, who was deported along with him attempted to commit suicide several times. He said; he doesn’t know where his roommate is at the moment.
Team work, energizer and refreshment
To make sure the workshop wasn’t boring for the participants. We made team work, energizer game and refreshment part of the workshop. For the team work and game, our aim was not only to provide and energizer, but to encourage working in teams and collecting ideas on causes of Afghan migration and better ideas and ways of helping those deported.
After the team work, one person from each team explained their teams’ point of view and suggestion on how to make sure Afghan refugees and deportees are treated fairly.
By the end of the workshop, we distributed feedback forms to all of the participants to collect their suggestions. Most of the feedbacks were optimistic and some of the suggestions were on organizing more workshops and giving more time to each of the sessions .
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading
Follow the guidance outlined above.
Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Professor William Maley is a professor of Professor of Diplomacy at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at The Australian National University. I have published extensively on Afghan politics for over three decades, and am author of Rescuing Afghanistan (London: Hurst & Co., 2006); The Afghanistan Wars (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, 2009); What is a Refugee? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); and Transition in Afghanistan: Hope, Despair and the Limits of Statebuilding (New York: Routledge, 2018). I have also written studies of The Foreign Policy of the Taliban (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2000) and Transitioning from military interventions to long-term counter-terrorism policy: The case of Afghanistan (2001-2016) (The Hague: The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2016); co-authored Regime Change in Afghanistan: Foreign Intervention and the Politics of Legitimacy (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991); Political Order in Post-Communist Afghanistan (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992); and Afghanistan: Politics and Economics in a Globalising State (London: Routledge, 2020); edited Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998, 2001); and co-edited The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Reconstructing Afghanistan: Civil-military experiences in comparative perspective (New York: Routledge, 2015); and
Afghanistan – Challenges and Prospects (New York: Routledge, 2018), I authored the entry on Hazaras in John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) Vol.II, pp.385- 386. I visited Afghanistan most recently in October 2019.
One of the latest incidents that occurred two days after the report was published and hasn’t found it way on Professor Maley’s expert report is the attack carried out by ISIS targeting civilians attending the martyrdom anniversary of Abdul Ali Mazara, the late Hazara leader who was assassinated by Taliban in 1995 ( Dozens killed in Kabul ceremony attack claimed by ISIL. Aljazeera English, 20 March 2020). The number of casualty later jumped to 33 killed and around 90 injured.
Statement concerning use of AMASO services in court cases!
It has recently been brought to our attention that the migration authorities of a number of European countries are using AMASO to argue that there is support available in Afghanistan for those who are forcibly returned there. The latest example brought to our attention is from Austria, where the court has misused the nature of the support we provide to those deported, including an emergency shelter to justify deporting Afghans without networks in Kabul.
It is essential to understand that according to the latest UNHCR guidelines, and a number of documents produced by them in December 2019, Kabul cannot be understood as a safe or reasonable “internal Flight Alternative’ (IFA/IRA). The existence of AMASO does not change or challenge this conclusion.
However, to avoid any confusion over the support we offer and our capacity to respond to those forcibly returned, we are explaining on this platform the exact nature of our work and our limitations, and why any argument to justify forced removal to Afghanistan based on our services and support is unjustified, inhumane and utterly cynical. Any of those authorities citing AMASO in this manner is invited to visit our office in Kabul and see for themselves (of course we take no responsibility for any injury or death they may experience).
Afghanistan Migrant Advice and Support Organization (AMASO) is a humanitarian, non-governmental and non-profit organization which works to provide first hand advice and counselling to Afghan asylum seekers deported from various European countries, as well as Turkey and Australia. We are a registered charitable organization with the Afghan Ministry of Economy. We exist because European governments are unjustifiably returning people to Kabul, most of them setting foot in the country for the first time and are without any social network, and who often end up on the streets, or under a bridge.
We started our services in 2014 because at that time (and ever since) there is a lack of support for those who are forcibly returned to Afghanistan. There is no other advice center where they ask for advice and orientation. There is very limited and specific support available from the International organizations like IOM and local organizations like ACE, and almost no support from the Afghan government, including the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation.
AMASO is already short staffed in compare to the number of people who visit us in an office in Kabul. Abdul Ghafoor can call on an informal board of advisors located abroad for advice on legal and other questions. Limited funding from small grants has covered salaries. In Kabul, we help some supporters in Europe send funds to people deported from Europe, but such support is very limited and depends on the good will and resources of activists, campaigners and supporters in Europe. AMASO has no resources of its own.
With the support of some activists from Norway, we started a shelter in 2016 where we could provide emergency accommodation to very vulnerable returnees. The shelter consisted of a kitchen, toilet and two rooms and could accommodate eight people, maximum ten, but not for prolonged periods. The project ended in 2018 after the funding for the shelter was stopped. We do provide temporary accommodation occasionally now too, but this is very difficult in the absence of stable funding, and is for a maximum of a few days.
Nonetheless, with our limited resources and generous networks, we have been able to provide advice and a friendly face to hundreds of frightened and traumatized people since the establishment of our organization five years ago.
Deportations to Afghanistan from Europe is in thousands, but we are unable to help all or even most of those deported to Afghanistan. We cannot help them find work, access medical help or access stable accommodation. We try to calm and reassure these traumatized people based on our years of experience and the training we have had in psycho-social support. We are a charity with very limited support from other humanitarian organizations, support groups and individuals based in Europe. We mainly help those who are referred to us through referrals by organizations and individuals based in Europe, and we are unable to respond even to all of those referrals.
Therefore, using our name to support the argument that all of those deported to Afghanistan can call on us for help is incorrect and very far from the reality. We will continue our support with whatever resources in hand in the future too, but we emphasize this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to deport more people, because we can only help very limited number of people and the rest receive no support and are in a desperate and dangerous situation post deportation to Afghanistan.
En som alltför väl känner till hur det är att leva i Afghanistan som återvändare, är Abdul Ghafoor. År 2013 deporterades han tillbaka till Kabul från Norge, där han fått avslag på sin asylansökan. Abdul Ghafoor har varit aktivist sedan tonåren och efter att han kommit tillbaka började han rapportera om de deporterades utsatta situation via sin blogg. 2014 grundade han organisationen Afghanistan Migrants Advice & Support Org, AMASO.
– Vårt främsta mål är att ge de deporterade rådgivning eftersom de flesta knappt vet någonting om Afghanistan. Det är väldigt svårt för dem att integreras här, så vi ger dem information om boende, hälsovård, utbildning, jurister och stödgrupper, säger han.
Någon liknande hjälp från de afghanska myndigheterna finns inte att få, berättar Abdul Ghafoor.
– Det går inte en vecka utan en självmordsattack. Det är väldigt negativt för afghanerna, och det är värst för de deporterade eftersom de återvänder efter så många år. Jag har träffat återvändande som inte vågar lämna sitt boende, barn som gråter i veckor för att de är rädda för att gå ut, säger Abdul Ghafoor.
Vissa dras in i drogberoende
Utan pengar i ett osäkert land är det svårt att hitta en meningsfull vardag. Abdul Ghafoor säger att vissa av de deporterade hamnar ”under bron”.
– Det finns en väldigt känd bro här i Kabul där de drogberoende bor. Många som kommer tillbaka är i dåligt skick, saknar pengar och känner ingen här. Därför hamnar många i ett drogberoende, bara för att komma undan sina problem.
En del av de utvisade har inte längre någon familj kvar i livet. Andra drar sig in i det sista för att kontakta dem, till och med efter att de landat i Kabul. Rädslan för hur deras familj ska reagera är stor, eftersom de har betalat stora summor pengar för att kunna skicka iväg sina barn till Europa. Att bli deporterad tillbaka innebär ett stort stigma, enligt Abdul Ghafoor.
– När familjerna skickar sina barn till Europa förväntar de sig att de ska få uppehållstillstånd och kunna skicka hem pengar. När det inte blir så kommer de att undra varför – vad har du gjort för fel? Har du dödat någon? Har du tagit droger? Varför fick din kusin uppehållstillstånd men inte du? Det är väldigt vanligt. Majoriteten av de här killarnas familjer har lånat pengar från släktingar och sålt av mark för att kunna skicka sin son till Europa och det blir en sådan press som de inte kan hantera.
Att försöka förklara hur den svenska migrationslagstiftningen fungerar är sällan ett alternativ, enligt Abdul Ghafoor. Många kommer från illitterata familjer på landsbygden, och att återvända från Europa ses som ett personligt misslyckande.
– 17 000 afghaner har lämnat landet under årets första nio månader. Majoriteten av de deporterade vill lämna landet, de ser inga möjligheter att överleva i Afghanistan, säger Abdul Ghafoor som de senaste åren har träffat hundratals återvändande.
I vissa fall kan de täcka sjukvårdskostnaderna med hjälp av privata donationer, men det är inte alla som får hjälp.
Också Abdul Ghafoor och hans organisation bistår de deporterade med vård i den mån det är möjligt.
Anser att utvisningarna ska stoppas
Abdul Ghafoor träffar regelbundet representanter för olika internationella organisationer, myndigheter, forskare och journalister för att prata om de deporterades utsatta situation. Han anser att europeiska länder, som Sverige, bör stoppa alla utvisningar till Afghanistan.
– Problemet är att de flesta länder har skygglappar på. De vägrar inse att de riskerar de här människornas liv. Många hamnar i eländiga situationer, som i den iranska militären, IS eller talibanerna. De här länderna kan inte säga att det inte är deras ansvar, för skickar du en person till ett land där de inte har någon framtid är risken stor att de rekryteras av någon av de här rörelserna.
A Finnish fact finding mission was in Kabul few months ago to find out about the situation of deportees/returnees after their return to Afghanistan. The mission interviewed several stakeholders in the field of migration, mental health and minority rights. AMASO had also a meeting with the mission and provided with first hand and up to date information about the situation of those deported, the kind of problems they face post deportation to Afghanistan, the situation of minorities and the overall deteriorating security situation in the country.
The report indicates that the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and that there is very limited services available for those deported to Afghanistan. Here is few of our comments taken from the report;
According to several sources, security is indeed the biggest concern in Afghanistan for returnees and civilians in general.
The overall security situation has been deteriorating since 2013-2014. People have grown tired of the deteriorating security, and in the last years large numbers of Afghans have left the country for Iran, Turkey, and Europe.
There are hardly any places available to rent for people living on their own. To rent a place in Afghanistan, people need family and other connections that the landlords will trust. Landlords are not eager to rent places to people they do not know because there have been, for example, cases where the Taliban has been firing rockets from rented places in Kabul. People need friends and a network to find some place to go to. Afghanistan is all about many kinds of networks, mostly based on relatives and extended family ties.
Another source says that skills acquired in Europe, for example in restaurants or car wash services and such, are not useful in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan everything is about referrals, and this applies even for the educated people
People may also be suspected of committing a crime while they were abroad because they were deported.
Return is a lengthy process that varies for different groups. It is easier for those who were in Afghanistan before and who are used to the conditions. It is more difficult for newcomers, families, women heads of household, and also for those returnees who left from the provinces but who return to Kabul
The Afghan police are not able to deal with these cases because the police are busy tackling the Taliban and ISIS terrorism. The police are not able and not interested in dealing with personal case
According to AMASO, West Kabul, inhabited by Hazaras, used to be the safest area in Kabul, but after ISIS gained ground in 2016-18 the most dangerous attacks have occurred in the west targeting Shias and Hazaras
An NGO representative noted that in Dashti Barchi, people have started to be afraid of new attacks against schools, hospitals, mosques and gatherings.
“The situation in Afghanistan today is much worse than it was a few years ago — mostly because of the security situation in the country,” Abdul Ghafoor, who heads the Kabul-based Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization (AMASO), told DW. “You may have noticed that the number of attacks that have been carried out by Taliban all around Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, is mind-blowing.” Just a week ago, he said, Austria and Sweden even canceled deportation flights at the last minute because of the danger.
Ghafoor said many people who are deported to Afghanistan try to leave the country as quickly as possible. “Just recently, I talked to four or five who were deported from Germany,” he said. “They are now in Greece, though in really bad circumstances.”
Afghan officials have promised their EU counterparts that the country is prepared to assimilate its returned citizens. In return, Afghanistan receives development aid. Ghafoor said the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) used to put up Afghans in hotel rooms for two weeks after their return to their home country. But, now, they merely receive the equivalent of about €150 ($167). And Afghanistan’s precarious security situation can mean that hostels are pricey. So repatriated Afghans must rely on relatives, friends or acquaintances to put them up. They can apply for up to €700 in funding from the German government to help them settle back in — though, Ghafoor said, the application process entails endless paperwork.
Ghafoor, who himself was deported from Norway in 2013, said the security situation had deteriorated considerably in recent years. That, he said, made deporting Afghans from Germany irresponsible. Though the Taliban has engaged in peace talks with the government of Afghanistan, the group is “still carrying out suicide attacks killing dozens of civilians,” he said. The Islamic State (IS) group is “even more dangerous and brutal than the Taliban; so the Taliban may only pose a secondary threat,” he added.
We are glad to announce the start of a new project with the assistance of Rights Now Sweden for a small short term project helping a limited number of returnees for educational purposes. Through the project, we will help returnees for a short period of time, 6 months or longer if possible with learning English Language and Computer programs.
We are hoping this will help some of the returnees find a way out of the trauma they have been through after deportation. We have started identifying returnees before we formally start the project in June, priority will be given to returnees from Sweden.
We are also planning to extend our program and include as many returnees possible in the near future. We also call on other organizations and private donors to join this cause and help one returnee each with the project. We will share further detail for this part of the post if we receive requests for support.
But critics say the deal has pushed the Afghan government down the throat. “The EU blackmailed the Afghan government at the time,” says Abdul Ghafoor on the phone from Kabul. Ghafoor leads the Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization, a small NGO with the aim of offering refugees who return safe wherever possible. “The Commission said:” We will send you back the refugees and give you money for reception or we will use that money in Europe, choose. “But Afghanistan is at least ninety percent of its state revenue dependent on foreign aid. Then of course you don’t really have a choice. “
“The Netherlands or the EU does not monitor evictions of asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies,” says Laurence Verkooijen. “So we don’t know what happens to Afghan asylum seekers after they are deported. As soon as they arrive at the airport, they are on their own. ” Abdul Ghafoor needs even fewer words: ‘There is no monitoring whatsoever. Not from the EU, not from the Afghan government. “
According to Ghafoor, these kinds of stories cannot be underestimated. “Christians absolutely run the risk of being killed.” He points to the story of 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada, who was murdered in March 2015 because she was said to have burned the Quran. A group of fanatical Muslims kicked and beat her to death with sticks and stones, then tied her behind a car and dragged her through the streets of Kabul. “Even though the returnees don’t say anything about their conversion, it’s just a matter of time before everyone in Afghanistan knows where you are. Social media has also penetrated here. “
Another risk is the lack of a social network. “In Afghanistan, social networks are essential for survival,” said Ghafoor. This applies above all to the group of young Afghans who fled with their families to Iran or Pakistan and later made the journey to Europe alone. If these boys are sent back to Afghanistan, they will end up in a country they don’t know. Some cross the border to Iran again, but there is a threat of recruitment by the Iranian army. “There are certainly two known cases of Afghan young men being deported from Norway, fleeing from Afghanistan to Iran and recruited there by the Iranian regime to fight on the Assad side in Syria,” says Ghafoor. “One died, the other managed to escape. He now roams around in Turkey. “
It is not strange, both Schuster and Ghafoor believe, that especially the young men sent back – more than seventy percent according to estimates – are on their way to Europe in no time. They are once again crossing the mountains of Iran to Turkey, where they have to stay out of the hands of the Turkish police – last year alone Turkey would have sent back at least 15,000 Afghans. They take the land route via Bulgaria or the sea route to Greece and get stuck in the mud pools of Lesvos. Afghans were the largest group of asylum seekers who arrived in Greece last year.