EU steps up efforts to repatriate Afghans
The EU is seeking to send migrants back to war-torn Afghanistan as a part of a broader policy to return rejected asylum seekers and others who refuse to be deported voluntarily.
On Tuesday (4 October) senior officials from both sides are set to meet to launch the so-called EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward agreement that they signed over the weekend.
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EU states will be able to charter an unlimited number of flights to Kabul, reports The Guardian newspaper, which has seen a copy of the yet-to-be made public agreement.
Each flight can carry a maximum of 50 Afghans who refused to return on a voluntary basis for first six months of the agreement, reports the paper.
The latest deal follows an extensive report on Afghanistan last month by the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which warned that insecurity in the country is spiralling out of control.
EASO said, citing Dutch government sources, that Afghan authorities are unable to provide protection against violence with the possible exception of some areas in Kabul.
"A new trend is that an equal amount of civilian casualties in ground engagements is attributed to pro-government forces and insurgents respectively," noted the EASO report.
The UN agency in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had also documented the highest level of civilian casualties, since record taking started, in the first six months of 2015 alone.
The deal was made in the lead up to a two-day summit in Brussels on aid to Afghanistan.
Abdul Ghafoor, a refugee rights activist who was deported from Norway in 2013, told this website from Kabul in September that insecurity is rife throughout the country and that the government has failed to deliver on reform promises.
"Young Afghans don't see any future in Afghanistan and most are stuck in Kabul because they can't travel to the provinces," he said.
Those returned to Kabul are left to fend for themselves. With no jobs and future prospects, many make second attempts to reach the EU, he said.
On Monday, the Taliban stormed the city of Kunduz with fighting reportedly still ongoing. They have also been threatening the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand.
Fighting flared in August when the US sent over 100 troops to Lashkar Gah to battle the Taliban. The US deployment to the embattled city was reportedly the first since the 2014 troop withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the 2.7 million Afghan refugees are found in Iran and Pakistan. Last year, some 178,000 attempted to reach Europe – around four times as many as in 2014.
The spike has spooked EU policy makers and leaders into stepping up returns and readmission agreements with countries.
The EU's new border and coast guard agency, set to be fully operational before the end of year, has dedicated European Return Intervention Teams to escort unwanted people back to their home countries.
“Just 10 of the world’s 193 countries host more than half its refugees. A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbours to a crisis," said Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty in a statement.
In a report released on Tuesday, the rights group highlighted the stark differences between how many Syrian refugees are hosted in Jordan (665,000) and Lebanon (1.1 million) when compared to EU states.