By Samantha Stevenson
The European Union and Afghanistan came to an agreement in a conference on October 5 that would send an unlimited number of Afghan migrants back to the country they fled from if their request for asylum failed.
Al Jazeera reports that the agreement will allow for the repatriation of failed asylum seekers from EU member states. Failed asylum seekers that the EU wants returned must be accepted and repatriated by Afghanistan.
According to The New York Times, 176,000 of the 213,000 Afghan people who arrived in Europe requested asylum. Yet 50 to 60 percent of requests have been denied, meaning the deal could potentially send tens of thousands of people back.
The EU is legally required to allow people fleeing war and persecution in their home countries a safe haven. However, they are allowed to refuse people classified as “economic migrants,” which are migrants who travel from one country to another to continually improve their standard of living.
However, the conditions in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly more hazardous. The New York Times reports that despite speakers at the conference praising improvements in Afghanistan, even the most important cities are under attack. On the same day the deal was announced, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan security forces in Kunduz, a crucial provincial capital that briefly fell to insurgents last year. The forces fought to maintain control of government buildings in the city.
Afghanistan Analysts Network reports that pressure to come to an agreement on the organizers’ side came from a fear that failure to negotiate the repatriation could hijack important discussions on aid and leave EU member countries reluctant to publicly commit to future funding.
Afghanistan representatives also worried that failure to negotiate would cause Europe to withhold aid. Naeve Baker of Al Jazeera reports that the deal had been seen “in some circles as something of a condition”, and “perhaps Afghanistan’s hand has been forced – largely because of the insecurity on the ground there – to agree to a situation that would see potentially tens of thousands of people returned.”
Amnesty International’s Horia Mosadiq said international and Afghan rights groups “were quite appalled at the secret deal,” and many viewed it as “some sort of blackmail.” Mosadiq also pointed out that of the three million refugees displaced from Iraq, many in Pakistan are also in danger of being deported back to Afghanistan.
This danger was confirmed on October 7 when top Afghan and Pakistani officials discussed the repatriation of about three million Afghan refugees, according the The India Express. The Washington Post reports that registered refugees in Pakistan have been given six months to deport back to Afghanistan. Rising tensions in the refugee crisis, from hostage situations to the 2014 terrorist invasion of a Pakistani military school that left 141 students and teachers dead, led authorities to vow a start in sending refugees back.
Departure deadlines were postponed several times, but the conflict came to a head after Pakistan built a large gate at Torkham, the major border crossing near Peshawar, and announced no Afghans could re-enter without a passport and visa.
Afghan refugees, many of whom grew up in the countries their families fled to, are worried what will await them when they return.