Saturday

20th Apr 2019

Afghan migrant returns unlawful, says charity

  • German has returned more people to Afghanistan than any other EU state. (Photo: Michael Foley Photography)

Member states are unlawfully returning rejected migrants and asylum seekers to Afghanistan by putting their lives in danger, says Amnesty International.

Iverna McGowan, who heads the NGO's European institutions office, told reporters on Wednesday (4 October) a temporary moratorium on returns to the country is needed until conditions improve.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"There is a terrifying gap between the European politics and policies and the realities on the ground, faced by those people who are being returned," she said.

Afghanistan is under constant siege with pro-government forces fighting some 20 different armed groups, including the Taliban and the Islamic State.

A suicide bomb attack in Kabul in May killed 150 and wounded more than 300. Twin blasts in July and August killed another 60 in the capital city.

Last year, the UN's mission to Afghanistan had also registered the highest causality rate for civilians on record with over 11,400 people either killed or injured.

"2017 is going the exact same way," noted Anna Shea, an Amnesty International researcher, who authored a report on the country published on Thursday (5 October).

"Willful blindness" of EU and member states

The EU commission's humanitarian branch, DG Echo, recently described Afghanistan as an "increasingly acute humanitarian crisis." Over two million people are internally displaced, forced to move elsewhere to seek safety.

But despite the rise in causalities and internally displaced, the number of Afghans returned to the country from Europe has increased by some 300 percent from 2015 to 2016, from 3,290 to 9,460.

Germany is leading the way, with some 3,400 returns last year alone, followed by Greece at just under 1,500, and Sweden with around 1,000.

Both Finland and the UK consider anywhere in Afghanistan safe enough to return people. Sweden believes all Afghan provinces are safe except Helmund and Uruzgan.

Some of the returns are coordinated by the EU's border agency, Frontex, whose return mandate has since expanded.

Meanwhile, asylum recognition rates vary across Europe with Bulgaria granting international protection to less than two percent of Afghans as opposed to 97 percent in Italy.

"The only way to describe the approach of the EU and the European governments of issuing returns to Afghanistan is willful blindness," said Shea.

She noted people returned to the country live in constant fear of being killed or injured in attacks. Others risk persecution for their beliefs, their sexuality, or even looking western.

"I have never met people so scared as people I met in Kabul," she said.

Among them is the father of a family who had been kidnapped and held for ransom by the Taliban.

Upon his release, the family fled Afghanistan in 2015 to Norway only to be returned. A few months later, he was killed, says Shea.

Others returned to the country had lived most or all of their lives elsewhere, like in Iran.

A European Commission spokesperson told this website in an email that it is working towards making Afghanistan more safe through political and diplomatic engagement as well as in the areas of security and development.

"In general, it should be underlined that there is a clear need to pursue the creation of a safer, better environment and opportunities for all in Afghanistan," said the spokesperson.

It also noted that return decisions to Afghanistan are taken by national authorities.

Last October in Brussels, the EU had signed a "joint way forward" pact with Afghanistan that aimed to ease returns to the country.

The international community in October last year committed to donate over $15 billion to Afghanistan for development up until 2020.

Uproar at Belgian bill letting police raid homes for migrants

A Belgian government proposal to crack down on migrants ordered to leave the country has sparked heated debates, as the bill allows police to raid and search people's homes. The bill has also now provoked a backlash from judges.

Analysis

Bell tolls for EU asylum reforms

The cornerstone the EU's asylum reforms referred to by the shorthand as 'Dublin' could end up in the scrapheap following the European elections in May.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us