In the run-up to the Brussels Donor Conference on Afghanistan on 4 and 5 October, leaked documents illustrated how the EU is pressuring Afghanistan to take back Afghan nationals who were refused international protection in Europe and failed to return voluntarily in exchange for aid. Over 85,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the EU in the first half of 2016, and 200,000 Afghans lodged a protection claim in 2015, making them the second-largest group of asylum seekers in Europe.
Even though the EU acknowledges in the leaked documents that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, a conclusion that EASO also came to in the recently published Country of Origin report on Afghanistan, the EU still envisages to make development aid dependent on migration management. This practice forms part of a greater strategy of tying development aid to migration management based on previous experiences with the EU-Turkey deal.
As a result of this very dubious quid pro quo approach to the provision of aid, a deal between the EU and Afghanistan was signed on Sunday 2 October, in which the EU requires Afghanistan to readmit 80,000 nationals. According to Timor Sharan, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan, this is far too many people for the Afghan authorities to adequately manage. “The EU’s short-term, political, domestically inspired response to a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude is counterproductive,” he added. The agreement, named Joint Way Forward, would also open up possibilities for the deportation of women and even unaccompanied children, so far only practiced by Norway.
“Trading the return of people who reached the EU to seek asylum to one of a country that is still clearly unstable, for vitally needed humanitarian and development aid is sordid and immoral,” said Amnesty International’s Afghanistan researcher Said Horia Mosadiq. “This was a bullying manoeuvre to wash their hands of their responsibilities to Afghans at home and in Europe.”
Stressing the hypocrisy of the EU to continue doing deals with third countries, ECRE’s Aspasia Papadopoulou says:
“While ECRE has been stressing that Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ and people should not be sent back, this deal is in a sense even worse than the EU-Turkey deal. With this deal, the EU wants to forcibly send back Afghans to a country in conflict. Evidence is there about the situation in the country, there are no excuses for the EU.”
In an attempt to focus on more long-term solutions, the Brussels Donor Conference on Afghanistan resulted in raising 15.3 billion EUR for the following 4 years, thereby falling slightly short of the 16 billion donated at the 2012 Tokyo Donor Conference. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent letters to Federica Mogherini ahead of the Donor Conference to “ensure that human rights are front and centre of any discussions on the future of the country to prevent a worsening of an already grave and fragile human rights situation”.
Amnesty International called on the EU to take into account the rights of the 1.2 million internally displaced Afghans when deciding on future funding and to urge the Afghan government to take concrete steps to ensure that all allegations of threats or attacks against human rights defenders are reported to government authorities. Human Rights Watch centred its calls on four key issues: military use of schools, right to education, media freedom and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.