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NGOs call for end of deportations to Afghanistan

28 July 20210 comments

A group of leading NGOs and refugee organisations have called on the EU and European nations to end the deportation of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan as the security situation in the strife-torn nation worsens as the Taliban reassert power across much of the countryside.

The 36 NGOs, which include Save the Children, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Caritas Europe, the International Rescue Committee, Human Rights Watch and the European Council for Refugees and Exiles, have penned an open letter to EU nation calling for action tom protect vulnerable Afghans from possible reprisals at the hands of the Taliban.

“We, as NGOs, refugee-led organisations and members of the Afghan diaspora in Europe, are deeply concerned about the increased conflict and violence in Afghanistan,” the letter says.

“Amidst the deteriorating security situation, we call on all European countries to stop deportations to Afghanistan, ensure access to protection for Afghans on their territory and focus on measures to prevent a further escalation of violence inside Afghanistan,” it says.

“The security situation in Afghanistan does not allow to return people to the country without putting their life at risk. After two decades, the US-led international military presence in Afghanistan will officially come to an end in September 2021.

“European and NATO countries are withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan at a time when the security situation is appalling. Heavy fighting continues across the country and Taliban fighters have taken control of many districts. More than 50 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory is now either contested or in Taliban control,” the letter says.

It comes as US President Joe Biden has authorised up to $US100 million from an emergency fund to meet “unexpected urgent” refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants.

President Biden also authorised the release of $US200 million in services and articles from the inventories of US government agencies to meet the same needs.

The US is preparing to begin evacuating thousands of Afghan applicants for special immigration visas who risk retaliation from Taliban insurgents because they worked for the US government.

Australia is also issuing visas to Afghans who worked with the Australian Defence Force or diplomats.

The NGOs says that as US and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the already dire security situation throughout the country is further deteriorating, with a high level of violence against civilians including targeted killings of civil society activists and journalists.

A recent report from the UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the total number of casualties during the first quarter of 2021 was 1.783 (573 killed and 1210 injured), amounting to 29 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2020.

The report also cites a rise in the number of casualties among women and children compared to the first quarter of 2020

According to European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Afghanistan could see an increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to 18.5 million.

And the UN’s Office on Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 500,000 people would be forcibly displaced due to conflicts in 2021.

According to IOM, in the period between January 2021 and July 2021 there have been 627.979 returns, including deportations from Iran and Pakistan alone.

“The worsening security situation in the country further heightens our concerns about the fate of people who are returned. During this crucial time for Afghanistan,” the NGO letter says.

“European countries should focus on preventing a further escalation of atrocities and violence and stand in solidarity with Afghanistan and its people through providing protection for Afghans in Europe and through supporting an intra-Afghan peace process that should take into account the achievement of the past 20 years, particularly the advancement in the rights of women and minorities,” it says.

Among the recommendations the NGOs have called on the EU implement are:

  • Immediately end deportations to Afghanistan due to the security situation and the challenges that returnees face in the country;
  • Frontex suspend coordination of charter flights for return operations to Afghanistan;
  • Immigration offices and courts in European countries to ensure up to date country information is used in asylum and return processes, in view of recent security developments in Afghanistan;
  • European countries should re-examine all final negative decisions for Afghan asylum seekers still present in European countries in the light of the current situation in Afghanistan and foreseeable risks of future persecution being identified as a result of this new situation;
  • The EU to use all of its leverage to prevent renewed wartime atrocities, following the withdrawal of international troops and to develop proposals for the EU to prevent further escalation of conflict, and;
  • The EU and European countries to admit their local staff including their families to Europe without delay and provide them with protection status as their lives will be in danger following the withdrawal of international troops from the country, and;
  • European countries to increase resettlement places for vulnerable Afghans refugees in Iran and Pakistan.