Afghan asylum seekers sent home fear deportations will add to chaos

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2016 4:42 AM

By Noori Zabihullah

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Afghan asylum seekers sent back home this week under a deal negotiated with the European Union fear their forced deportations will prompt other migrants to try to bypass the rules, fuelling chaos in the system.

The process began this week of deporting failed Afghan asylum seekers following an agreement between the European Union and Afghanistan in October with Norway deporting about 13, Sweden about nine and Germany about 34 asylum seekers.

Afghans made up a fifth of all migrants entering Europe last year, the second biggest group after Syrians.

The deportation from Germany, where more than a million migrants from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived this year, sparked a large demonstration at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday with hundreds of Afghans chanting "Stop Deportation".

"The process is totally unfair and unjust. Some of the deportees went to social welfare department to extend their papers, but they were arrested there," said Rashed Husseini, an Afghan asylum seeker who participated in the demonstration.

"We left Afghanistan because of insecurity and lack of rule of law. But the fact that people are detained by deception and are being deported against their will is also unlawful," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Germany has seen protests against the planned deportations in recent weeks as critics say much of Afghanistan is not safe and returnees might face reprisals with much of the country still under threat from the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Afghanistan's Western-backed government is battling militants who have stepped up attacks since the withdrawal of most foreign troops in 2014.

The group deportation has created worries among other Afghan asylum seekers in Germany who fear they will be arrested if they went to extend their papers.

"I will not go to extend my papers again unless I have legal representative accompanying me," said Murtaza, a participant in the demonstration, who would only give his first name while speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

"It is totally unfair on Afghan asylum seekers to be deported simply because the European Union paid some money to our government."

FAMILIES DIVIDED

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said only people who can prove they are refugees fleeing persecution, war or violence are eligible for asylum.

He added that one-third of those deported were criminals convicted of offences, from robbery and drugs crimes to rape and homicide. Of the 50 men due on the plane, 16 had disappeared.

The Afghan Ministry of Refugees has said it will help returnees get back to their homes, with a spokesman adding that about 10,000 Afghans had returned from Europe this year.

On Tuesday this week, Norway and Sweden deported groups of failed Afghani asylum seekers to Kabul.

Mosavi, a returnee from Norway, told media at Kabul Airport that his family is in Norway but he was deported forcefully.

"My wife and children should be there and I must be here with my hands tied? They gave me 2,000 Afghani ($30) and tell me welcome. Why?" he said in a phone interview.

The decision to deport asylum seekers in groups has added to the tension and uncertainty of those whose asylum claims have been refused and those who have not yet had asylum interviews.

Mohammad Dawood Niazi, an Afghan asylum seeker from northern Afghanistan living in Sweden, is worried this decision might prompt more asylum seekers not to cooperate with the system, creating more chaos in an already backlogged process.

Arriving in Sweden more than one year ago, he was fingerprinted and sent to a camp in the north where he was given accommodation, food and 700 Swedish crown ($75) monthly.

"Nothing has happened in regard to my immigration matter in this one year," Niazi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview, adding he had no idea when he would be interviewed.

Sweden was once Europe's most welcoming state for refugees and migrants, but since late 2015 it has made a sharp U-turn.

Figures in October showed that so far this year, Sweden had rejected four of five Afghans' applications for asylum. In 2014, 60 percent were approved.

Niazi said the uncertainty about the future along with the worries of his wife and three children left behind in Afghanistan has caused him to suffer severe depression.

"I am not a teenager and I have not come to Europe to enjoy the freedom, to drink alcohol or flirt with girls, or have a better life. I came here because my life was at risk," he said.

($1 = 9.4079 Swedish crowns, 66.3000 afghanis)

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)