Europe Is Called ‘Willfully Blind’ to Risks Afghan Deportees Face


“Returns are increasing, even as dangers in the country have become more severe,” the report said. “Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or injured, and a wide range of people are at additional risk of other serious human rights violations such as persecution or torture.”

In deciding asylum cases, the report said that European countries “arbitrarily” consider some parts of Afghanistan safe. Even when the authorities recognize that a person’s home province might not be safe, they say he or she could merely relocate to a safer place elsewhere in the country.

The reality, Amnesty International said, is that “no part of the country can be considered safe.”

United Nations statistics paint a grim picture not only of the country’s violence, where officials report varying degrees of fighting across 20 of the 34 Afghan provinces, but also of the acute humanitarian crisis the deportees return to.

About 25,000 civilians were killed and 45,000 others injured by fighting between 2009 and 2016, which was the highest year for such casualties on record. In the first six months of 2017, violence killed close to 1,700 people and left 3,600 others injured. About 20 percent of those casualties happened in Kabul, the nation’s capital.

Photo

Naqibullah sought asylum in Germany after Kunduz, Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban in 2015. He was deported five months ago, and now works at a mechanic shop in Kunduz.

Credit
Najim Rahim for The New York Times

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that about nine million people would need humanitarian assistance in the country this year, with about two million internally displaced by fighting and natural disasters.

The Amnesty report said European countries had pressured the Afghan government, which is heavily dependent on donor money, to take back its citizens. The European Union and Afghanistan signed a document, “The Joint Way Forward,” last year, with the Afghan government agreeing to admit its citizens who did not receive asylum in Europe. A leaked draft of the document acknowledged the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, but said “more than 80,000 persons” could be returned to the country.

“If Afghanistan does not cooperate with E.U. countries on the refugee crisis, this will negatively impact the amount of aid allocated to Afghanistan,” the report quotes the country’s finance minister, Eklil Hakimi, as telling the Afghan Parliament.

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general who was visiting Kabul last week, said the refugee issue t had factored into European countries’ decision to join the United States for a longer commitment to Afghanistan. “NATO leaving would also risk further instability in the region, including refugees fleeing for the safety of Europe,” Mr. Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Kabul, where he appeared with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the United States defense secretary, Jim Mattis. “These risks to our own security, to our own societies, and to our own credibility are too great, and they would be devastating for the Afghan people.”

Around the time that Mr. Stoltenberg was making those remarks, about 50 rockets and mortar shells landed at Kabul’s international airport.

Germany topped the list of most deportations last year, sending back 3,440 Afghans. However, after a truck bombing in front of the German Embassy in Kabul in May that killed at least 90 people, Germany has reportedly become more selective in deportations.

According to the Amnesty report, Afghans are sent back through a process called assisted voluntary return, in which they sign an agreement to leave the deporting country and are then given $500 to $4,500 upon arrival in the home country.

A second process is “forced return,” where individuals are detained and escorted onto a flight to Afghanistan. About 580 people were sent from Europe under that process in 2016, 372 of them from Norway.

Young children have not been spared deportation. The Amnesty report recounts the story of the Farhadi family, which was forcibly returned to Kabul from Norway late last year.

In November, the family was shaken in an Islamic State attack at a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people. Ali Reza Farhadi, 13, told the Norwegian news media that the shock of the explosion caused his mother to drop his 2-year-old brother.

After the attack, the members of the soccer team that Ali Reza had played with in Norway posted two images on social media: one of Ali Reza, wearing a red jersey and kneeling for a team photo, and the other of him crying during a television interview after the attack.

“Sometimes the contrasts are just too big,” read a message with the photos. “We have space in our teams for Ali and many others. We think about you and hope we can meet again soon in safe and secure circumstances.”

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