• The two contrasting sides of German refugee policy

    ‘They try to integrate some people while really try to get rid of others.’

    Four years after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the doors to around one million refugees and asylum seekers, Germany continues to mull over the long-term consequences of its great welcome. It still grapples with fundamental questions about how refugees should integrate and, for the tens of thousands of asylum seekers whose futures remain in limbo, who should be allowed to stay and who will be returned home?

    Mohammad Zarzorie, a Syrian engineer, counts himself a success story. After fleeing to Germany via Greece and the Balkans in 2015, he received his refugee status within months, quickly learned to speak German, and through an employment fair soon found his job at a chromium plating manufacturer on the outskirts of Munich.

    Two years later, his wife followed him, and although a housing crisis means they must live in an apartment attached to the factory, he has found peace and contentment here in the industrial heartland of Bavaria, in southern Germany.

    “From a land that’s under war to (there) being nothing difficult for you to start your life in another safe country, it wasn’t difficult for me,” says Zarzorie, a university teaching assistant before conflict erupted in Syria.

    “There was no challenge,” Zarzorie says. “Here in Germany they have this benefits system. They help you a lot to start integrating with society.”

    Returning to the engineering work he was pursuing in Syria has been the foundation on which he has built a new life, and he eagerly wants more Syrians in Germany to enter employment. “I think they must (work) because you can’t start your life if you don’t work,” he says.

    But not all new arrivals to Germany share his good fortune and have the opportunity to work.

    Bavaria, Zarzorie’s new home, is consistently one of the most conservative and anti-migrant states in Germany. It has deported more than 1,700 people so far this year, and drawn severe criticism from human rights groups for continuing to send hundreds of migrants to Afghanistan, which no other German state considers a safe country for return.

    “The image is deliberately created that refugees do not want to work, or are inactive, and this increases resentment against refugees.”

    “Sometimes you need to make things clear to people who are naive and confused and think that migration is nothing more than making things a bit more multicultural,” Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said in August. “Asylum law applies, but we cannot accept everyone. Because that overburdens us.”

    “It’s paradoxical,” says Gülseren Demirel, responsible for migration and integration for the Bavarian Green Party, which opposes Herrmann’s Christian Social Union. “The Bavarian economy is strong and also offers jobs that can’t be staffed. The chambers of commerce and civil society groups try to integrate the refugees, but the political conditions do not allow this.

    “The consequence is that refugees are not allowed to work and can’t develop any perspectives,” she adds. “The image is deliberately created that refugees do not want to work, or are inactive, and this increases resentment against refugees.”
    Rejected, but ‘tolerated’

    Bringing new arrivals into the workforce has been the cornerstone of Germany’s integration efforts since 2015.

    The benefits are two-fold: they can become self-dependent and assimilate socially, while at the same time plugging the country’s severe labour shortage, which has left almost 1.4 million positions vacant and will require 250,000 immigrants per year to address.

    The results have exceeded expectations. Around 36 percent of refugees between 15 and 60 – around 380,000 to 400,000 people – are now in employment, according to Germany’s Institute for Employment Research, which expects that number to rise to around 40 percent before the end of the year. While many remain in low-wage work as cleaners or security personnel, half are in skilled professions.

    But around a quarter of a million migrants who have had their asylum cases rejected remain in the country, despite being required to leave. Of these, 191,000 have been granted a ‘toleration’ – a temporary status meaning their deportation has been postponed for reasons such as illness, family ties to a person with residency, or a lack of travel documents.

    Around 11,500 failed asylum seekers were deported in the first half of this year – a slight decline on 2018. But the possibility of deportation remains a very real fear for those with ‘tolerations’, which are usually provided on a rolling basis, lasting only a few weeks or months at a time.

    Even if they attempt to find work and learn the language, they often find themselves subject to arbitrary decisions at the hands of Germany’s formidable bureaucracy.

    The decision on whether to grant asylum is made at a national level, but once a person’s claim has been rejected what follows is largely determined by state or local administrations, which are granted wide discretion, leading to wildly divergent situations depending on where a person is located.

    “(Local offices) often decide whether you can get a work permit, and you need a work permit for getting an apprenticeship permit, which then is very often the way for consolidating your right to stay,” explains Simon Sperling, a researcher at the University of Osnabruck’s Institute of Migration Research and Intercultural Studies.
    ‘It’s not how I was before’

    Like Zarzorie, Johnson Nsiah, from Ghana, also arrived in Germany after crossing the Mediterranean in 2015. He was sent to live in Kempten, a large town in Bavaria around two hours drive west of Munich.

    After fleeing his home when a local dispute threatened his life, he crossed the Sahara to Libya, where he worked as a builder and painter for two years. There, he met Julia*, a Nigerian woman, and helped her escape from her abusive employer. The employer then threatened to kill them both, forcing them to pay for space aboard an inflatable boat, which was intercepted by an Italian navy ship that brought them to Europe.

    The couple are now married. Julia, along with their two children – a four-year-old born in Italy and a two-year old born in Kempten – have the right to remain in Germany, but Nsiah’s asylum claim has been rejected and he is required to leave the country.

    Because of his family, Nsiah has been granted a ‘toleration’, in the form of a paper slip, valid for six months, which fixes the boundaries of his life. It does not permit him to work, travel outside Bavaria, or live outside the apartment block in which his family resides – a former mental hospital repurposed to house over 100 asylum seekers and refugees.

    The local administrative office has demanded Nsiah return to Ghana to obtain a passport, which he says is financially impossible and would amount to a death sentence due to the continued threats made against him. The restrictions have put a heavy toll on his mental and physical health. Stress has contributed to painful migraines that caused him to drop out of language classes.

    “It’s not how I was before,” he says, gesturing towards the hearing aids protruding from both his ears. “Because of stress, all those things, they make me like this.”

    Nsiah believes his many years of experience should easily lead to a job in construction or painting, and it angers him that that he is limited to cleaning the apartment building for 60c an hour while other Ghanaians he met in 2015 have been working freely in Hamburg and Stuttgart for years.
    Separation by nationality

    In June, the German parliament approved a raft of new asylum laws, including some measures to strengthen the rights of rejected asylum seekers in steady jobs, but also others that lengthened maximum stays in detention centres and streamlined deportations.

    For Sperling, the origins of this contradictory approach date back to 2015, when German authorities quietly began to separate arrivals based on their nationality, which greatly influences their chances of a successful asylum application.

    “The politics is very ambivalent in this sense: they try to integrate some people while really try to get rid of others.”

    Syrians, Iraqis, and Eritreans were all deemed to have good prospects and shuffled quickly into courses to help them integrate and find work. Others, especially those from West Africa and the Balkans, had a less favourable outlook, and so received minimal assistance.

    “Germany invested in language courses and things like that, but at the same time also really pushed forward to isolate and disintegrate certain groups, especially people who are said to not have have good prospects to stay,” he says.

    “The politics is very ambivalent in this sense: they try to integrate some people while really try to get rid of others.”

    But while some have undeniably built new lives of great promise, the lives of many of those 2015 arrivals remain in limbo.

    On the street, Nsiah says, Germans have racially abused him and berated him for refusing to work, a bitter irony not lost on him.

    “It’s not our fault. No refugee here doesn’t want to work,” he says, his voice smarting.

    “The only thing I need to be happy... (is) to work and take care of my family, to live with my family, because my wife doesn’t have anybody and I cannot leave her alone with these children.”
    The two extremes

    The local immigration office in Bavaria has shown a reluctance to grant permits for work or to access to three-year apprenticeships, which if pursued by someone like Nsiah would almost certainly lead to a job offer and a secure residence permit.

    It also frequently imposes restrictions on movement with breaches punishable by heavy fines. An Iraqi man in Kempten showed The New Humanitarian a picture of his seriously ill wife lying on a hospital bed in Saxony, whom he cannot visit because his pass restricts him to Bavaria; while an Iranian man said that for eight years his pass did not permit him to stray beyond the town boundary.

    Moving to another district or state might be beneficial, but these onerous stipulations, combined with a chronic shortage of rental accommodation throughout Bavaria, make it nearly impossible for those on low or non-existent incomes.

    Zarzorie, meanwhile, hopes to find his own house in Munich, raise children and finish the master’s degree he first embarked upon in Aleppo.

    There is still adjusting to do, to what he calls the different “life-cycle” in Munich. Unlike his memories of Syria, in which cafés and streets buzzed with chatter until the early hours of the morning, the boulevards here fall quiet long before midnight.

    That’s why he’s drawn most evenings to Marienplatz, a square in the city’s old quarter where its historic town hall overlooks modern cafes and restaurants, and the crowds stay out late enough that it almost reminds him of home.

    #Allemagne #intégration #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #machine_à_expulser #politique_d'asile #réfugiés_syriens #catégorisation #nationalité #réfugiés_irakiens #réfugiés_érythréens #réfugiés_afghans #renvois #expulsion

    ping @_kg_

  • CEDH | La Suisse violerait la Convention en renvoyant un Afghan chrétien

    La Cour Européenne des droits de l’Homme a rendu un arrêt le 05.11.2019 qui reconnaît que la Suisse violerait l’article 3 de la Convention en renvoyant un ressortissant afghan converti au christianisme. Dans l’ Affaire A.A. c. Suisse (Requête n° 32218/17) , la CourEDH relève que, selon de nombreux documents internationaux sur la situation en Afghanistan, […]

  • Briefing: Behind the new refugee surge to the Greek islands

    “They told us, the young boys, to take a gun and go fight. Because of that I escaped from there [and] came here,” Mohammed, a 16-year-old from Ghazni province in Afghanistan, said while sitting in the entrance of a small, summer camping tent on the Greek island of Lesvos in early October.

    Nearby, across a narrow streambed, the din of voices rose from behind the barbed wire-topped fences surrounding Moria, Europe’s largest refugee camp.

    With the capacity to house around 3,000 people, the camp has long since spilled out of its walls, spreading into the olive groves on the surrounding hills, and is continuing to grow each day, with dangers of sickness and accidents set to increase in the winter months ahead.

    The population of the camp exploded this summer, from about 4,500 people in May to almost 14,000 by the end of October, reflecting a spike in the number of people crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey in recent months. So far this year, nearly 44,000 people have landed on the Greek islands, compared to around 32,500 in all of 2018.

    The increase is being led by Afghans, accounting for nearly 40 percent of arrivals, and Syrians, around 25 percent, and appears to be driven by worsening conflict and instability in their respective countries and increasingly hostile Turkish policies towards refugees.
    Isn’t it normal to see a surge this time of year?

    Arrivals to Greece usually peak in the summertime, when weather conditions are better for making the passage from the Turkish coast.

    But the increase this year has been “unprecedented”, according to Astrid Castelein, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) office on Lesvos.

    Since the EU and Turkey signed an agreement in March 2016 aimed at stopping the flow of asylum seekers and migrants across the Aegean, arrivals to the Greek Islands during the summer have ranged from around 2,000 to just under 5,000 people per month.

    In July this year, arrivals rose to more than 5,000 and continued to climb to nearly 8,000 in August, before peaking at over 10,000 in September.

    These numbers are a far cry from the height of the European migration crisis in 2015, when over 850,000 people crossed the Aegean in 12 months and more than 5,000 often landed on the islands in a single day.

    Still, this year’s uptick has caused European leaders to warn about the potential that arrivals from Turkey could once again reach 2015 levels.
    What is Turkey threatening to do?

    Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, at around four million people, including around 3.6 million Syrians.

    In recent months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to “open the gates” of migration, using the spectre of increased refugee arrivals to try to pressure the EU to support controversial plans for “a safe zone” in northern Syria. He wielded it again to try to get EU leaders to dampen their criticism of the military offensive Turkey launched at the beginning of October, which had the stated aim of carving out the zone, as well as fending off a Kurdish-led militia it considers terrorists.

    But despite the rhetoric, apprehensions of asylum seekers and migrants trying to leave Turkey have increased along with arrivals to the Greek islands.

    Between the beginning of July and the end of September, the Turkish Coast Guard apprehended around 25,500 people attempting to cross the Aegean Sea, compared to around 8,600 in the previous three months.

    “This stark increase is in line with the increase in [the] number of people crossing the Eastern Mediterranean,” Simon Verduijn, a Middle East migration specialist with the Mixed Migration Centre, said via email. “The Turkish Coast Guard seems to monitor the Aegean seas very carefully.”

    “The situation has not changed,” Ali Hekmat, founder of the Afghan Refugees Association in Turkey, said, referring to the difficulty of crossing the sea without being apprehended, “but the number of boats increased.”
    Why are there so many Afghans?

    The spike in people trying to reach the Greek islands also coincides with an increase in the number of asylum seekers and migrants crossing into Turkey.

    “We’ve noticed a general… increase in movement across the country lately,” said Lanna Walsh, a spokesperson for the UN’s migration agency, IOM, in Turkey.

    So far this year, Turkish authorities have apprehended more than 330,000 people who irregularly entered the country, compared to just under 270,000 all of last year. Similar to the Greek islands, Afghans are crossing into Turkey in greater numbers than any other nationality, accounting for 44 percent of people who have been apprehended, following a spike in Afghan arrivals that started last year.

    “It’s not surprising that people see that they no longer have a future in Turkey.”

    2018 was the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan out of the past decade, and the violence has continued this year, crescendoing in recent months as peace talks between the United States and the Taliban gained momentum and then collapsed and the country held presidential elections. Afghanistan is now the world’s least peaceful country, trading places with Syria, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, an Australia-based think tank that publishes an annual Global Peace Index.

    At the same time, options for Afghans seeking refuge outside the country have narrowed. Conditions for around three million Afghans living in Iran – many without legal status – have deteriorated, with US sanctions squeezing the economy and the Iranian government deporting people back to Afghanistan.

    Turkey has also carried out mass deportations of Afghans for the past two years, changes to the Turkish asylum system have made it extremely difficult for Afghans to access protection and services in the country, and legal routes out of the country – even for the most vulnerable – have dried up following deep cuts to the US refugee resettlement programme, according to independent migration consultant Izza Leghtas.

    “It’s not surprising that people see that they no longer have a future in Turkey,” Leghtas said.
    What do the refugees themselves say?

    The stories of Afghans who have made it to Lesvos reflect these difficult circumstances. Mohammed, the 16-year-old who fled Afghanistan because he didn’t want to fight, said that the Taliban had attacked the area near his home in Ghazni province. He decided to flee when local men who were fighting the Taliban told him and other young men to take up arms. “We just want to get [an] education… We want to live. We don’t want to fight,” he said.

    Mohammed went to Iran using his Afghan passport and then crossed the border into Turkey with the help of a smuggler, walking for about 14 hours before he reached a safe location inside the country. After about a month, he boarded an inflatable dinghy with other refugees and crossed from the Turkish coast to Lesvos. “There’s no way to live in Turkey,” he said when asked why he didn’t want to stay in the country. “If they found out that I am Afghan… the police arrest Afghan people who are refugees.”

    Ahmad, a 23-year-old Afghan asylum seeker also camping out in the olive groves at Moria, left Afghanistan three years ago because of tensions between ethnic groups in the country and because of Taliban violence. He spent two years in Iran, working illegally – “the government didn’t give us permission to work,” he said – before crossing into Turkey last year. He eventually found a job in Turkey and was able to save up enough money to come to Greece after struggling to register as an asylum seeker in Turkey.

    Ali, a 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, was born in Iran. Ali’s father was the only member of the family with a job and wasn’t earning enough money to cover the family’s expenses. Ali also wasn’t able to register for school in Iran, so he decided to come to Europe to continue his education. “I wanted to go to Afghanistan, but I heard that Afghanistan isn’t safe for students or anyone,” Ali said.
    Is pressure growing on Syrian refugees?

    UNHCR also noticed an increase in the proportion of Syrians arriving to the Greek islands in August and September compared to previous months, according to Castelein.

    Since July, human rights organisations have documented cases of Turkish authorities forcibly returning Syrians from Istanbul to Idlib, a rebel-held province in northwestern Syria, which has been the target of an intense bombing campaign by the Syrian government and its Russian allies since April. The Turkish government has denied that it is forcibly returning people to northwest Syria, which would be a violation of customary international law.

    “I left for safety – not to take a vacation – for safety, for a safe country that has work, that has hope, that life.”

    Tighter controls on residency permits, more police checks, and increased public hostility towards Syrians amidst an economic downturn in Turkey have also added to a climate of fear. “People that don’t have a kimlik (a Turkish identity card) aren’t leaving their houses. They’re afraid they’ll be sent back to Syria,” said Mustafa, a 22-year-old Syrian asylum seeker on Lesvos who asked that his name be changed.

    Until recently, Mustafa was living in the countryside of Damascus, Syria’s capital, in an area controlled by the Syrian government. His family was displaced early on in Syria’s more than eight and a half year civil war, but he decided to leave the country only now, after being called up for mandatory military service. “I didn’t know what to do. They want you to go fight in Idlib,” he said.

    Mustafa spent a month in Istanbul before crossing to Lesvos at the end of September. “I saw that the situation was terrible in Turkey, so I decided to come here,” he added. “I left for safety – not to take a vacation – for safety, for a safe country that has work, that has hope, that life.”
    How shaky is the EU-Turkey deal?

    The military campaign Turkey launched in the Kurdish-administered part of northeast Syria at the beginning of October displaced some 180,000 people, and around 106,000 have yet to return. Another 12,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Iraq.

    A ceasefire is now in place but the future of the region remains unclear, so it’s too early to tell what impact, if any, it will have on migration across the Aegean, according to Gerry Simpson, associate director of Human Rights Watch’s crisis and conflict division.

    But Turkey’s tightening residency restrictions, deportations, and talk of mass expulsions could, Simpson said, be a “game-changer” for the EU-Turkey deal, which is credited with reducing the number of people crossing the Aegean since March 2016.

    The agreement is based on the idea that Turkey is a safe third country for asylum seekers and migrants to be sent back to, a claim human rights groups have always taken issue with.

    In the more than three years since the deal was signed, fewer than 3,000 people have been returned from Greece to Turkey. But Greece’s new government, which came to power in July, has said it will speed up returns, sending 10,000 people back to Turkey by the end of 2020.

    “This idea that [Turkey] is a safe third country of asylum was never acceptable to begin with. Obviously, now we’ve seen [that] even more concretely with very well documented returns, not only of Syrians, but also of Afghans,” Leghtas, the migration consultant, said.

    “Whether that changes the two sides’ approach to the [EU-Turkey deal] is another matter because in practical terms… the only real effect of the [deal] has been to trap people on the islands,” Simpson added.

    #îles #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #Mer_Egée #réfugiés_afghans

    • Refugees trapped on Kos: An unspeakable crisis in reception conditions

      Hundreds of refugees are forced to live in boxes made out of cardboard and reed or makeshift sheds inside and outside of the Kos hotspot, in the utmost precarious and unsuitable conditions, without access to adequate medical and legal assistance. Since last April, the Kos hotspot, located on a hill at the village of Pyli, 15km outside of the city, is overcrowded, while the number of transfers of vulnerable refugees from the island to the mainland is significantly lower[1] compared to other islands, therefore creating an unbearable sense of entrapment for the refugees. RSA staff visited the island recently, spoke with refugees[2] living at the hotspot and visited the surrounding area. The images and testimonies cited in this document point out an unspeakable crisis in reception conditions.

      A former military camp in the village of Pyli serves as the Kos hotspot, despite intense protests residents; it started operating in March 2016 following the implementation of the toxic EU – Turkey Deal. According to official data, a place designed for a maximum occupancy of 816 people and 116 containers is now accommodating 3.734 people. Given the lack of any other accommodation structure on the island, the above number includes those living in makeshift sheds inside the hotspot as well as in crumbling abandoned buildings and tents outside of it. This severe overcrowding has led the authorities to use the Pre-removal Centre as an area for the stay for asylum-seekers– who are under restriction of their freedom of movement – including vulnerable individuals, women and families.

      According to UNHCR, the majority of asylum-seekers come from Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palestine and Iraq, while children make up for 27% of the entire population. This data points out that, despite the dominant opposite and unfounded rhetoric, most of the newcomers are refugees, coming from countries with high asylum recognition rates.

      “We are living like mice”

      Two large abandoned buildings stand outside the hotspot; they are accessible only through debris, trash and a “stream” of sewage. RSA met with refugees who live there and who described their wretched living conditions. “Here, we are living like mice. We are looking for cardboard boxes and reeds to make ourselves a place to sleep. At night, there is no electricity. You look for an empty space between others, you lay down and try to sleep”, says an English-speaking man from Cameroon, who has been living in one of these abandoned buildings for two months. It is an open space full of holes in the walls and a weathered roof of rusty iron[3].

      Cardboard rooms

      African refugees, men and women have found shelter in this utterly dangerous setting. They have made a slum with big cardboard rooms, one next to the other, where the entrance is not visible. As the refugees sleeping in this area mention, there is cement and plaster falling off of the roof all the time. A vulnerable female refugee from Africa described to us her justified fear that her living conditions expose her to further danger.

      “The police told us to go find somewhere to sleep, there is no room at the hotspot. I am scared in here among so many men, because there is no electricity and it gets dark at night. But, what can I do? There was no room for me inside”.

      A blanket for each person

      The situation for Afghan families living in rooms of the other abandoned building, a few meters away, is similar. “When we take our children to the doctor, he writes prescriptions and tells us to buy them by ourselves. No one has helped us. When we arrived, they gave only one blanket to each one of us. Us women, we don’t even have the basics for personal hygiene”, says a young Afghan who has been living here for a month with her daughter and her husband. “They give us 1.5lt of water every day and pasta or potatoes almost daily”, says a young Afghan.

      In that space we met with refugees who complain about snakes getting indoors, where people sleep. Many try to shut the holes in the abandoned buildings to deter serpents from entering and to protect themselves from the cold. “We shut the holes but it is impossible to protect ourselves, this building is falling apart, it is really dangerous”, says a man from Afghanistan.

      There are no toilets outside of the hotspot; a cement trough is used as a shower for men, women and children, along with a hose from the fields nearby. There, they collect water in buckets and take it to their sheds. Alongside the road leading to the hotspot, refugees are carrying on their shoulders mattresses they have found in the trash, to put them in their tents and sheds.

      According to UNHCR, following a request by the Reception and Identification Authority, 200 tents were donated to the hotspot. This said, the Authorities have yet to find an appropriate space to set them up.

      Unbearable conditions inside the hotspot

      At the moment, there is not really a “safe zone” for unaccompanied minors, despite the fact that there is a space that was designed for this purpose, as families seem to be living in UNHCR tents in that space. The area is not completely protected and according to reports adults, who use the hygiene facilities, can enter there.

      Due to the overcrowding, lodgings have been set up in almost every available space, whereas, according to testimonies, there are serious problems with electricity, water supply, sewage disposal and cleanliness. The refugees mention that there is only one public toilet for those not living in a container, lack of clothing, shoes and hygiene products. Some told us that they left the hotspot because of the conditions there, in search of a living space outside of it. Such is the case of a Syrian refugee with his son, who are sleeping in a small construction near the hotspot entrance. “I found two mattresses in the trash. It was so filthy inside and the smell was so unbearable that I couldn’t stand it. I was suffering of skin problems, both me and the child”, he says. Tens of other refugees are sleeping in parks and streets downtown and depend upon solidarity groups in order to attend to their basic needs.

      Several refugees told us that they are in search of ways to work, even for free, in order to be of use. “I want to do something, I can’t just sit around doing nothing, it is driving me crazy. Would you happen to know where I could be of help? They say they don’t need me at the hotspot, is there anything I could do for the town of Kos? Clean, help somehow?”, a young Palestinian asks.

      Inadequate access to medical care

      Refugees living in the hotspot point out the inadequate or non-existent medical care. “We queue up and, if we manage to get to a doctor, they tell us to drink water, a lot of water, and sometimes they give paracetamol. There is no doctor at night, not even for emergencies. If someone is sick, the police won’t even call an ambulance. Take a taxi, they tell us. The other day, my friend was sick with a high fever, we called a taxi, but because the taxi wouldn’t come to the hotspot entrance, we carried him down the road for the taxi to pick us up”, says a young refugee.

      According to reports, at this moment there is only one doctor at the hotspot and only one Arab-speaking interpreter among the National Public Health Organization (NPHO) staff; during the summer, because of the limited NHPO staff, there were serious delays in medical tests and vulnerability screenings. Also, Kos hospital is understaffed, with whatever the consequences might be for the locals and the refugees in need of medical care[4].

      Not having a Social Security Number makes things even worse for those in need of medication, as they have to pay the entire price to buy it. The amount of 90 EURO that they receive as asylum-seekers from the cash program (cash card), especially when they have a health issue, is not enough. Such is the testimony of a woman from Africa, living in one of the abandoned buildings outside the hotspot. “It is dangerous here, we are suffering. It is difficult in these conditions, with our health, if you go to the hospital, they won’t give you medication. They will write you a prescription and you will have to buy it with your own money”, she tells us.

      Problems with free access to medical care for the thousands of newcomers increased sharply since July 2019 because the Foreigner Health Card system did not work and the Minister of Labor revoked[5] the circular on granting a Social Security Number to asylum-seekers, since the matter has yet to be regulated.

      Under these circumstances, survivors of a shipwreck (caused by the Coast Guard ramming a refugee boat near Kos resulting in the death of a 3-year old boy and a man) were transferred last week. According to the press, the 19-year old mother of the child, a few hours after the shipwreck and while still in shock, grave mourning and exhaustion, was transferred to the Reception and Identification Centre in order to be registered.

      Repression and police brutality

      According to the testimonies of at least four refugees, their protests are mostly dealt with repression, while there are reports on use of police violence in these situations. “Every time there is an issue, we go to the police and tell them do something, you have to protect us. They tell us to go away and if we insist, they start yelling and, if we don’t leave, they beat us”, says a minor Afghan who is living in the hotspot with his family. “If we complain, no one listens to you. It is a waste of time and you risk getting in trouble”, a 41-year old man from Africa, who has been living for the past six months inside the hotspot in a shed made of cardboard boxes, explains to us. ”A month ago, when we had the first rain, people were complaining, but it did nothing other than the riot police coming over”, they are telling us.

      Huge delays in the asylum process

      Many of those we met have yet to receive the threefold document and still have no access to the cash program. Newcomers have only received their “Restriction of Freedom Decision”, valid for 25 days; several have told us that the information on the asylum process is incomplete and they are having difficulty understanding it. At the end of the 25 days, they usually receive a document titled “Service Note of Release” where there is mention of the geographical restriction on the island of Kos. Lately, a notification for the intention to claim asylum is required.

      According to reports, at the moment there is a large number of people whose asylum process has not advanced (backlog). “Some of us have been here for 4-6 months and we haven’t even had a pre-interview[6] or an interview yet”, says a woman from Cameroon who is living in the hotspot.

      Arrivals have particularly increased in the past months, while refugees arriving in smaller islands, such as Kalymnos, Symi, are transferred to the Kos and Leros hotspots. According to UNHCR, a recent transfer of refugees from Kos to the mainland took place on 6 October and concerned 16 individuals. [7]. Due to the fact that in Kos the geographic restriction was not usually lifted in the past months, hundreds of people are trapped in these extremely precarious conditions. This appears to be happening because of the delays in the asylum process and the lack of medical staff, resulting to vulnerable individuals not being identified, combined with the lack of available space in the mainland structures and the prioritization of other islands that have hotspots.

      In Kos, there is free legal aid by four lawyers in total (a Registry lawyer, Metadrasi, Greek Refugee Council, Arsis), while there is great lack of interpreters both in the hotspot and the local hospital.

      Lack of access to education

      With regard to the refugees children’s education, evening classes in the Refugee Reception and Education Centres (RREC) have yet to start. According to UNHCR data, more than 438 children of school and pre-school age – aged 5 to 17-years old – are living in the hotspot[8] .

      In total, 108 children attend the Centre of non-typical education (KEDU) of Arsis Organization near the hotspot, funded by UNHCR. Any educational activity inside the hotspot, take place as part of an unemployment program by the Manpower Employment Organization. According to reports, the kindergarten providing formal education that operated in the previous two years inside the hotspot under the Ministry of Education is now closed as safety reasons were invoked.

      Detention: bad conditions and detention of vulnerable individuals

      The Pre-removal Centre next to the hotspot, with a capacity of 474 people, is currently detaining 325 people. According to UNHCR observations, the main nationalities are Iraq, Cameroon, Egypt, Syria and Pakistan.

      According to reports, newcomers in nearby islands that are transferred to Kos are also detained there until they submit their asylum claim. Also, people who have violated the geographic restriction are also held there. Among the detainees, there are people who have not been subjected to reception procedures process due to shortcomings of the Reception and Identification Authority[9]. Characteristically, following his visit to Kos in August 2019, Philippe Leclerc, the UNHCR Representative in Greece, reported: “I also visited the pre-removal centre on Kos, which since May 2019 has broadly been used as a place for direct placement in detention, instead of reception, of asylum-seekers, including women and those with specific needs, some of whom without prior and sufficient medical or psychosocial screening, due to lack of enough personnel”.

      In the context of the pilot project implemented in Lesvos, even extremely vulnerable individuals are being detained, despite the fact that there is no doctor in the Pre-removal Centre. An African refugee with a serious condition told us “I was in the Pre-removal Centre for three and a half months. I almost collapsed. I showed them a document from my country’s hospital, where my condition is mentioned, I asked them for a doctor, but they brought a nurse. Now I sleep in a room made of cardboard and reed outside of the hotspot”.

      According to complaints by at least two people who have been detained at the Pre-removal Centre, the police broke the camera of their mobile phones, that resulted in the phones not functioning and them losing their contacts and the only means of communication with their families. “Inside the Pre-removal Centre we didn’t have access to a doctor nor to medication. There was a nurse, but we were receiving no help. Also, we didn’t have access to a lawyer. When we complained, they transferred us to another wing, but all the wings were in an equally bad condition. Many times those who complained were being taken to the police station”, says a 30-year old man from Gambia.


    • 800 migrants arrive in Greece within 48 hours, living conditions described as ’horrible’

      Migrant arrivals to Greece continue unabated: Nearly 800 migrants crossed from Turkey to Greece in just 48 hours this week, marking the highest pace of arrivals in 40 months. The Council of Europe during a visit to migrant camps on the Greek islands warned of an explosive situation and described living conditions there as ’horrible.’

      On Wednesday, the Greek coastguard registered the arrival of 790 migrants in just 48 hours. As state media reported, the migrants arrived by land and by sea on boats at Alexandropouli on the mainland and the islands of Samos and Farmakonisi.

      The country has not seen this many arrivals of migrants via sea since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect in March 2016. The number of migrants arriving in Greece in the first ten months of this year has already overshot last year’s figure of around 50,500.

      According to the latest UNHCR figures, 55,348 migrants have arrived, 43,683 of them by sea, between the start of 2019 and Sunday.

      Dramatic situation

      The surge has led to dramatic overcrowding in camps on the Greek Aegean islands, where the migrant population has more than doubled over the past six months, according to the German press agency dpa. Even before, the camps were packed at more than twice their capacity. Outbreaks of violence and fires at the EU-funded island camps have further escalated the situation.

      During a visit to Greek island camps on Wednesday, Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, said she had witnessed people queuing for food or to use a bathroom for more than three hours at refugee camps for asylum seekers on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Corinth.

      “The people I have met are living in horrible conditions and in an unbearable limbo,” she said at a news briefing on Thursday; adding the migrants were struggling to cope with overcrowding, lack of shelter, poor hygiene conditions and substandard access to medical care.

      “I saw children with skin diseases not treated. I heard about no medications or drugs at all available to these people. No access to health, no proper access to health and many other things that are really quite shocking for Europe in the 21st century,” Mijatovic continued.


      To ease the overcrowding, the Greek government has already started relocating people to the mainland. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that 20,000 migrants would be moved by the end of the year. With the current resurgence of arrivals, however, decongestion is not in sight. Mijatovic urged the authorities to transfer asylum seekers from islands to the mainland as soon as possible. “It is an explosive situation”, she said. “This no longer has anything to do with the reception of asylum-seekers,” she said. “This has become a struggle for survival,” she concluded at the end of her visit.


    • Sur l’île de #Samos, une poudrière pour des milliers d’exilés confinés à l’entrée de l’UE

      Avec 6 000 migrants pour 650 places, le camp grec de Samos est une poudrière ravagée par un incendie à la mi-octobre. Alors que la Grèce redevient la première porte d’entrée dans l’UE, autorités comme réfugiés alertent sur la catastrophe en cours. Reportage sur cette île, symptôme de la crise européenne de l’accueil.

      La ligne d’horizon se fond dans le ciel d’encre de Samos. L’île grecque des confins de l’Europe est isolée dans la nuit d’automne. Sur le flanc de la montagne qui surplombe la ville côtière de Vathy, des lumières blanches et orange illuminent un amas de blocs blancs d’où s’élèvent des voix. Elles résonnent loin dans les hauteurs de cyprès et d’oliviers, où s’égarent des centaines de tentes. Ces voix sont celles d’Afghans et de Syriens en majorité, d’Irakiens, de Camerounais, de Congolais, de Ghanéens… Pour moitié d’entre eux, ce sont des femmes et des enfants. Un monde au-dehors qui peine à s’endormir malgré l’heure tardive.

      À deux kilomètres des côtes turques, l’île de Samos (Grèce) est rejointe en Zodiac par les exilés. © Dessin Elisa Perrigueur

      Ils sont 6 000 à se serrer dans les conteneurs prévus pour 648 personnes, et la « jungle » alentour, dit-on ici. Ce camp est devenu une ville dans la ville. On y compte autant de migrants que d’habitants. « Samos est un petit paradis avec ce point cauchemardesque au milieu », résume Mohammed, Afghan qui foule ces pentes depuis un an. Les exilés sont arrivés illégalement au fil des mois en Zodiac, depuis la Turquie, à deux kilomètres. Surpeuplé, Vathy continue de se remplir de nouveaux venus débarqués avec des rêves d’Europe, peu à peu gagnés par la désillusion.

      À l’origine lieu de transit, le camp fut transformé en 2016 en « hotspot », l’un des cinq centres d’identification des îles Égéennes gérés par l’État grec et l’UE. Les migrants, invisibles sur le reste de l’île de Samos, sont désormais tous bloqués là le temps de leur demande d’asile, faute de places d’hébergement sur le continent grec, où le dispositif est débordé par 73 000 requêtes. Ils attendent leur premier entretien, parfois calé en 2022, coincés sur ce bout de terre de 35 000 habitants.

      Naveed Majedi, Afghan de 27 ans rencontré à Vathy. © Elisa Perrigueur
      Naveed Majedi, un Afghan de 27 ans, physique menu et yeux verts, évoque la sensation d’être enlisé dans un « piège » depuis sept mois qu’il s’est enregistré ici. « On est bloqués au milieu de l’eau. Je ne peux pas repartir en Afghanistan, avec les retours volontaires [proposés par l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations de l’ONU – ndlr], c’est trop dangereux pour ma vie », déplore l’ancien traducteur pour la Force internationale d’assistance à la sécurité à Kaboul.

      Le camp implose, les « habitations » se négocient au noir. Naveed a payé sa tente 150 euros à un autre migrant en partance. Il peste contre « ces tranchées de déchets, ces toilettes peu nombreuses et immondes. La nourriture mauvaise et insuffisante ». Le jeune homme prend des photos en rafale, les partage avec ses proches pour montrer sa condition « inhumaine », dit-il. De même que l’organisation Médecins sans frontières (MSF) alerte : « On compte aujourd’hui le plus grand nombre de personnes dans le camp depuis 2016. La situation se détériore très vite. Le lieu est dangereux pour la santé physique et mentale. »

      Il n’existe qu’une échappatoire : un transfert pour Athènes en ferry avec un relogement à la clef, conditionné à l’obtention d’une « carte ouverte » (en fonction des disponibilités, de la nationalité, etc.). Depuis l’arrivée en juillet d’un premier ministre de droite, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, celles-ci sont octroyées en petit nombre.

      Se rêvant dans le prochain bateau, Naveed scrute avec obsession les rumeurs de transferts sur Facebook. « Il y a des nationalités prioritaires, comme les Syriens », croit-il. Les tensions entre communautés marquent le camp, qui s’est naturellement divisé par pays d’origine. « Il y a constamment des rixes, surtout entre des Afghans et des Syriens, admet Naveed. Les Africains souvent ne s’en mêlent pas. Nous, les Afghans, sommes mal perçus à cause de certains qui sont agressifs, on nous met dans le même sac. » Querelles politiques à propos du conflit syrien, embrouilles dans les files d’attente de repas, promiscuité trop intense… Nul ne sait précisément ce qui entraîne les flambées de colère. La dernière, sanglante, a traumatisé Samos.

      Le camp était une poudrière, alertaient ces derniers mois les acteurs de l’île dans l’indifférence. Le 14 octobre, Vathy a explosé. Dans la soirée, deux jeunes exilés ont été poignardés dans le centre-ville, vengeance d’une précédente rixe entre Syriens et Afghans au motif inconnu. En représailles, un incendie volontaire a ravagé 700 « habitations » du camp. L’état d’urgence a été déclaré. Les écoles ont fermé. Des centaines de migrants ont déserté le camp.

      L’Afghan Abdul Fatah, 43 ans, sa femme de 34 ans et leurs sept enfants ont quitté « par peur » leur conteneur pour dormir sur la promenade du front de mer. Les manifestations de migrants se sont multipliées devant les bureaux de l’asile. Des policiers sont arrivés en renfort et de nouvelles évacuations de migrants vers Athènes ont été programmées.

      Dans l’attente de ces transferts qui ne viennent pas, les migrants s’échappent quand ils le peuvent du camp infernal. Le jour, ils errent entre les maisons pâles du petit centre-ville, déambulent sur la baie, patientent dans les squares publics.

      « Nous ne sommes pas acceptés par tous. Un jour, j’ai voulu commander à dîner dans une taverne. La femme m’a répondu que je pouvais seulement prendre à emporter », relate Naveed, assis sur une place où trône le noble Lion de Samos. Un homme du camp à l’air triste sirote à côté une canette de bière. Une famille de réfugiés sort d’un supermarché les bras chargés : ils viennent de dépenser les 90 euros mensuels donnés par le Haut-Commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR) dans l’échoppe où se mêlent les langues grecque, dari, arabe et français.

      D’autres migrants entament une longue marche vers les hauteurs de l’île. Ils se rendent à l’autre point de convergence des réfugiés : l’hôpital de Samos. Situé entre les villas silencieuses, l’établissement est pris d’assaut. Chaque jour entre 100 et 150 demandeurs s’y pressent espérant rencontrer un docteur, de ceux qui peuvent rédiger un rapport aidant à l’octroi d’un statut de « vulnérabilité » permettant d’obtenir plus facilement une « carte ouverte ».

      Samuel et Alice, un couple de Ghanéens ont mis des semaines à obtenir un rendez-vous avec le gynécologue de l’hôpital. © Elisa Perrigueur

      La « vulnérabilité » est théoriquement octroyée aux femmes enceintes, aux personnes atteintes de maladies graves, de problèmes psychiques. Le panel est flou, il y a des failles. Tous le savent, rappelle le Dr Fabio Giardina, le responsable des médecins. Certains exilés désespérés tentent de simuler des pathologies pour partir. « Un jour, on a transféré plusieurs personnes pour des cas de tuberculose ; les jours suivants, d’autres sont venues ici, nombreuses, en prétextant des symptômes, relate le médecin stoïque. On a également eu beaucoup de cas de simulations d’épilepsie. C’est très fatigant pour les médecins, stressés, qui perdent du temps et de l’argent pour traiter au détriment des vrais malades. Avec la nouvelle loi en préparation, plus sévère, ce système pourrait changer. »

      En neuf mois, l’établissement de 123 lits a comptabilisé quelque 12 000 consultations ambulatoires. Les pathologies graves constatées : quelques cas de tuberculose et de VIH. L’unique psychiatre a démissionné il y a quelques mois. Depuis un an et demi, deux postes de pédiatres sont vacants. « Le camp est une bombe à retardement, lâche le Dr Fabio Giardina. Si la population continue d’augmenter, on franchira la ligne rouge. »

      Dans le couloir où résonnent les plaintes, Samuel Kwabena Opoku, Ghanéen de 42 ans, est venu pour sa femme Alice enceinte de huit mois. Ils ont mis longtemps à obtenir ce rendez-vous, qui doit être pris avec le médecin du camp. « Nous, les Noirs, passons toujours au dernier plan, accuse-t-il. Une policière m’a lancé un jour : vous, les Africains [souvent venus de l’ouest du continent – ndlr], vous êtes des migrants économiques, vous n’avez rien à faire là. » Ils sont les plus nombreux parmi les déboutés.
      Le maire : « L’Europe doit nous aider »

      Samuel, lui, raconte être « menacé de mort au Ghana. Je devais reprendre la place de mon père, chef de tribu important. Pour cela, je devais sacrifier le premier de mes fils, eu avec mon autre femme. J’ai refusé ce crime rituel ». Son avocate française a déposé pour le couple une requête d’urgence, acceptée, devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme. Arrivés à Samos en août, Samuel et Alice ont vu le gynécologue, débordé, en octobre pour la première fois. L’hôpital a enregistré 213 naissances sur l’île en 2019, dont 88 parmi la population migrante.

      Des ONG internationales suisses, françaises, allemandes sillonnent l’institution, aident aux traductions, mais ne sont qu’une quinzaine sur l’île. « Nous sommes déconnectées des autorités locales qui communiquent peu et sommes sans arrêt contrôlées, déplore Domitille Nicolet, de l’association Avocats sans frontières. Une situation que nous voulons dénoncer mais peu de médias s’intéressent à ce qui se passe ici. »

      Une partie de la « jungle » du camp de Vathy, non accessible aux journalistes ni aux ONG. © Elisa Perrigueur

      Chryssa Solomonidou, habitante de l’île depuis 1986 qui donne des cours de grec aux exilés, est en lien avec ces groupes humanitaires souvent arrivés ces dernières années. « Les migrants et ONG ont rajeuni la ville, les 15-35 ans étaient partis à cause de la crise », relate-t-elle. Se tenant droite dans son chemisier colorée au comptoir d’un bar cossu, elle remarque des policiers anti-émeute attablés devant leurs cafés frappés. Eux aussi sont les nouveaux visages de cette ville « où tout le monde se connaissait », souligne Chryssa Solomonidou. En grand nombre, ils remplissent tous les hôtels aux façades en travaux après une saison estivale.

      « J’ai le cœur toujours serré devant cette situation de misère où ces gens vivent dehors et nous dans nos maisons. C’est devenu ici le premier sujet de conversation », angoisse Chryssa. Cette maman a assisté, désemparée, à la rapide montée des ressentiments, de l’apparition de deux univers étrangers qui se croisent sans se parler. « Il y a des rumeurs sur les agressions, les maladies, etc. Une commerçante vendait des tee-shirts en promotion pour 20 euros. À trois hommes noirs qui sont arrivés, elle a menti : “Désolée, on ferme.” Elle ne voulait pas qu’ils les essayent par peur des microbes », se souvient Chryssa.

      Il y a aussi eu cette professeure, ajoute-t-elle, « poursuivie en justice par des parents d’élèves » parce qu’elle voulait faire venir des migrants dans sa classe, ce que ces derniers refusaient. L’enseignante s’est retrouvée au tribunal pour avoir appelé les enfants à ignorer « la xénophobie » de leurs aînés. « Ce n’est pas aux migrants qu’il faut en vouloir, mais aux autorités, à l’Europe, qui nous a oubliés », déplore Chryssa.

      « L’UE doit nous aider, nous devons rouvrir les frontières [européennes – ndlr] comme en 2015 et répartir les réfugiés », prône Giorgos Stantzos, le nouveau maire de Vathy (sans étiquette). Mais le gouvernement de Mitsotakis prépare une nouvelle loi sur l’immigration et a annoncé des mesures plus sévères que son prédécesseur de gauche Syriza, comme le renvoi de 10 000 migrants en Turquie.

      Des centaines de migrants ont embarqué sur un ferry le 21 octobre, direction Athènes. © Elisa Perrigueur

      Les termes de l’accord controversé signé en mars 2016 entre Ankara et l’UE ne s’appliquent pas dans les faits. Alors que les arrivées en Grèce se poursuivent, la Turquie affirme que seuls 3 des 6 milliards d’euros dus par l’Europe en échange de la limitation des départs illégaux de ses côtes auraient été versés. Le président turc Erdogan a de nouveau menacé au cours d’un discours le 24 octobre « d’envoyer 3,6 millions de migrants en Europe » si celle-ci essayait « de présenter [son] opération [offensive contre les Kurdes en Syrie – ndlr] comme une invasion ».

      À Samos, où les avions militaires turcs fendent régulièrement le ciel, ce chantage résonne plus qu’ailleurs. « Le moment est très critique. Le problème, ce n’est pas l’arrivée des familles qui sont réfugiées et n’ont pas le choix, mais les hommes seuls. Il n’y a pas de problèmes avec les habitants mais entre eux », estime la municipalité. Celle-ci « n’intervient pas dans le camp, nous ne logeons pas les réfugiés même après les incendies, ce n’est pas notre job ».

      L’édile Giorgos Stantzos multiplie les déclarations sur Samos, trop éclipsée médiatiquement, selon les locaux, par la médiatisation, légitime, de l’île de Lesbos et de son camp bondé, avec 13 000 migrants. Au cours d’un rassemblement appelé le 21 octobre, Giorgos Stantzos a pris la parole avec les popes sur le parvis de la mairie de Samos. « Nous sommes trop d’êtres humains ici […], notre santé publique est en danger », a-t-il martelé sous les applaudissements de quelques milliers d’habitants.

      La municipalité attend toujours la « solution d’urgence » proposée par l’État grec et l’UE. Bientôt, un nouveau camp devrait naître, loin des villes et des regards. Un mastodonte de 300 conteneurs, d’une capacité de 1 000 à 1 500 places, cernés de grillages de l’OTAN, avec « toutes les facilités à l’intérieur : médecins, supermarchés, électricité, etc. », décrypte une source gouvernementale. Les conteneurs doivent être livrés mi-novembre et le camp devrait être effectif à la fin de l’année. « Et le gouvernement nous a assuré qu’il organiserait des transferts de migrants vers le continent toutes les semaines d’ici la fin novembre pour désengorger Samos », précise le maire Giorgos Stantzos.

      Sur les quais du port, le soir du 21 octobre, près de 700 Afghans, Syriens, Camerounais, Irakiens… ont souri dans le noir à l’arrivée du ferry de l’État aux lumières aveuglantes. Après s’y être engouffrés sans regret, ils ont fait escale au port du Pirée et voulu rejoindre des hébergements réquisitionnés aux quatre coins du continent. Quelque 380 passagers de ce convoi ont été conduits en bus dans le nord de la Grèce. Eux qui espéraient tant de cette nouvelle étape ont dû faire demi-tour sous les huées de villageois grecs : « Fermez les frontières », « Chassez les clandestins ».

      Boîte noire :

      L’actuel camp de conteneurs de Vathy, entouré de barbelés, n’est accessible qu’avec l’autorisation du gouvernement, et il est donc uniquement possible de se rendre dans la « jungle » de tentes alentour.

      Dès le 10 octobre, nous avons formulé des demandes d’interviews avec le secrétaire de la politique migratoire, Giorgos Koumoutsakos (ou un représentant de son cabinet), la responsable du « hotspot » de Samos et/ou un représentant de l’EASO, bureau européen de l’asile. Le 15 octobre, nous avons reçu une réponse négative, après les « graves incidents » de la veille. Nous avons réitéré cette demande les 20 et 23 octobre, au cours de notre reportage à Samos. Avec un nouveau refus des autorités grecques à la clef, qui évoquent une « situation trop tendue » sur les îles.


  • ’Inhumane’ Frontex forced returns going unreported

    On a late evening August flight last year from Munich to Afghanistan, an Afghan man seated in the back of the plane struggled to breath as a German escort officer repeatedly squeezed his testicles.

    The man, along with another Afghan who had tried to kill himself, was being forcibly removed from Germany and sent back to a country engulfed in war.

    The EU’s border agency Frontex coordinated and helped pay for the forced return operation, as part of a broader bid to remove from Europe unwanted migrants and others whose applications for international protection had been rejected.

    By then, almost 20 years of war and civil conflict had already ravaged Afghanistan - with 2018 registering its worst-ever civilian death rate since counting had started.

    Also seated on the plane for the 14 August flight were independent observers of the anti-torture committee (CPT) of the human rights watchdog, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.

    In a report, they describe in detail how six escort officers had surrounded the terrified man in an effort to calm him.

    The ’calming’ techniques involved an officer pulling the man’s neck from behind while yanking his nose upwards.

    His hands and legs had been cuffed and a helmet placed on him. Another knelt on the man’s knees and upper legs, using his full weight to keep him seated.

    After 15 minutes, the kneeling officer “then gripped the returnee’s genitals with his left hand and repeatedly squeezed them for prolonged periods.”

    Another 503 have been sent to Afghanistan in flights coordinated by Frontex since the start of this year.

    Vicki Aken, the International Rescue Committee’s Afghanistan country director, says those returned are invariably put in harm’s way.

    “You cannot say that Kabul is ’conflict-free’. Kabul is actually one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan,” she said, noting Afghanistan has the highest number of child casualties in the world.

    The day after the Munich flight landed on 14 August 2018, a blast ripped through a high school in the capital city, Kabul, killing 48 people, including over 30 students.

    The flight journey from Munich highlights a stunning omission from Frontex responsibilities - adding to concerns the EU agency is failing to maintain standards when it comes to coordinating forced-returns in a humane manner.

    For one, all return operations must be monitored in accordance with EU law, and a forced-return monitor is required to deliver a report to Frontex and to all the member states involved.

    Such reports, handed over to Frontex’s executive director, are supposed to act as an internal check and balance to stem alleged abuse by escort guards in a system that has been in place since the start of 2017.

    These monitors come from a “pool of forced-return monitors”, as required under the 2016 European Border and Coast Guard Regulation and the 2008 Return Directive, and are broadly sourced from the member states themselves.

    The CPT in their report noted that the flight on 14 August 2018 had also been monitored by Frontex staff itself, and concluded that its “current arrangements cannot be considered as an independent external monitoring mechanism”.

    When the agency compiled its own internal report spanning the latter half of 2018, which included the 14 August flight, no mention was made of the Afghan man who had been manhandled by six officers.

    Asked to explain, the Warsaw-based agency whose annual budget for 2020 is set to increase to €420.6m, has yet to respond to Euobserver.

    Instead, the report, which had been written up by Frontex’s fundamental rights officer, highlighted other issues.

    It demanded escorts not place restraints on children. It said minors who are alone cannot be sent back on a forced-return flight, which is exactly what had happened on two other operations.

    No one on the 14 August flight had issued a “serious incident report” label, used by Frontex whenever a particularly bad incident has been deemed to have transpired.

    During 2018 Frontex coordinated and helped fund 345 such return operations, by charter flights during which only one “serious incident report” was filed - posing questions on the reliability and independence of the monitors and return escorts, as well as the sincerity of internal Frontex efforts to stem any abuse.

    The accountability gap was highlighted by the outgoing head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, who in his farewell speech earlier this month, deliberately singled out Frontex.

    “Frontex is bound by EU laws that prohibit torture and any form of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” he said, in reference to reports of alleged human rights violations that occurred during Frontex support operations observed since mid-2018.
    Monitoring the monitors

    For Markus Jaeger, a Council of Europe official who advises the Frontex management board, the agency’s monitoring system for forced return is meaningless.

    “The internal system of Frontex produces close to nil reports on serious incidents, in other words, the internal system of Frontex, says there is never a human rights incident,” he told EUobserver, earlier this month.

    He said Frontex’s pool of 71 monitors is overstretched and that in some cases, only one is available for a flight that might have 150 people being returned.

    “One monitor doesn’t suffice,” he said, noting Frontex has been able to delegate any blame onto member states, by positioning itself merely as a coordinator.

    But as Frontex expands - with the ability to lease planes, pilots and staff - its direct involvement with the returns also increases and so does its accountability, says Jaeger.

    “The [return] figures are supposedly going up, the capacity is supposedly going up, the procedures are being shortened, and deportations are going to happen by deployed guest officers and or by Frontex officers and so the independence of the monitors is crucial,” he pointed out.

    For its part, the European Commission says Frontex’s pool of monitors is set to expand.
    Nafplion Group

    Jaeger, along with other national authorities from a handful of member states, which already contribute to Frontex’s pool of monitors, are now putting together a new group to keep the forced-returns organised by Frontex better in check.

    Known as the Nafplion Group, and set up as a pilot project last October by the Greek ombudsman, it describes itself as a “remedy to the absence of an external, independent governance of the pool of forced-return monitors” in Frontex forced-return flights.

    The plan is to get it up and running before the end of the year, despite having no guarantee they will ever be selected by Frontex to help monitor a forced-return flight.

    “This is how de facto the Nafplion Group can be avoided,” said Jaeger, noting that they plan to go public should they not be picked.

    Asked to comment, the European Commission says it is not in discussions with any institutions on the establishment of a new, parallel monitoring system.

    #renvois #expulsions #Frontex #Allemagne #réfugiés #réfugiés_afghans #asile #migrations #violence #responsabilité #retours_forcés #renvois #expulsions #déboutés #Kaboul #directive_retour #Nafplion_Group #monitoring #monitorage

    • Germany: Visit 2018 (return flight)

      CPT/Inf (2019) 14 | Section: 12/18 | Date: 03/12/2018

      A. The removal operation: preparation, execution and handover / 5. Use of force and means of restraint

      50.The use of force and means of restraint in the context of pick-up and transport of irregular migrants by the different Länder police authorities is regulated in the respective Länder police legislation.[1] In the context of the transfer to the airport, most of the returnees were not subjected to any means of restraint. However, a number of returnees were restrained (handcuffed, hand- and foot-cuffed, or even body-cuffed) during their transfer and upon arrival at Terminal F. The use of means of restraint was based on an individual risk assessment.

      51.During the different stages in the preparation of the removal operation by air from a German airport as well as on board a stationary aircraft on German territory, the use of force and means of restraint falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Police. In-flight, the aircraft commander[2] is – with the assistance of the Federal Police[3] – entitled to apply the necessary preventive and coercive measures to ensure flight security. In particular, means of restraint can be applied if there is a risk that the returnee might attack law enforcement officers or a third party, or if he/she resists.[4]

      The internal instruction of the Federal Police contains detailed provisions on the use of force and means of restraint. In particular, coercive measures are only applied based both on an individual risk assessment and on the returnee’s conduct. Further, the principle of proportionality must be observed. During removal operations, the following means of restraint may be applied: steel, plastic or Velcro hand- and foot-cuffs as well as body-cuffs and head- (i.e. a helmet) and bite-protective devices; the last three means of restraint may only be applied by specially trained police officers and precise instructions have to be followed. Every application of use of force or means of restraint is documented. Further, according to another internal instruction and the operational instructions for this return operation, other weapons (i.e. firearms, tear gas, batons) are prohibited.

      This approach is in line with the means of restraint agreed upon with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), as specified in the implementation plan and its Annex I (operational overview). The implementation plan also underlines that the “use of force is always a last resort and must be the minimum level required to achieve the legitimate objective”.

      Moreover, the internal instruction explicitly mentions by way of clear guidelines the risks related to the use of force and/or means of restraint capable of causing positional asphyxia, including a detailed list of possible related symptoms, and prohibits the use of means likely to obstruct the airways as well as “techniques directed against the person’s neck or mouth”. Further, the forced administration of medication (i.e. sedatives or tranquilisers) as a means of chemical restraint to facilitate removal is strictly forbidden. Such an approach fully reflects the Committee’s position on this issue.

      52.According to information provided by letter of 18 October 2018, the German authorities, in the context of return operations, applied means of restraint 1,098 times for a total of 21,904 foreign nationals returned in 2017, and 673 times for a total of 14,465 persons returned in the period between January and August 2018.

      53.In the course of the return flight on 14 August 2018, coercive measures were applied by the Federal Police to two returnees who attempted to forcefully resist their return.

      One returnee, who had previously attempted to commit suicide and to resist his transfer by the Länder police authorities (see paragraph 28), became agitated during the full-body search in the airport terminal, when Federal Police officers attempted to remove his body-cuff in order to replace it with a more appropriate model (i.e. with Velcro straps rather than metal handcuffs). Further, the wounds on his left forearm had re-opened, requiring the medical doctor to dress them. The returnee was temporarily segregated from other returnees and embarked separately, during which resort to physical force was required to take him inside the aircraft.

      Once seated in the rear of the aircraft (surrounded by five escort officers seated on either side of him, in front and behind), he continued resisting, including by banging his head against the seat, and two of the escorts had to stand up to contain him manually during take-off. Apart from two further minor episodes of agitation, he calmed down as the flight progressed. However, at the moment of handover, he resisted being removed from the aircraft. Consequently, he was immobilised and carried out of the aircraft by a team of up to seven escort officers. Once on the tarmac, he was placed in a separate police vehicle, his body-cuff was removed, and he was handed over to three Afghan police officers, one of whom filmed his handover.

      54.The second returnee complied with the embarkation procedure until the moment when he was seated in the aircraft, at which point he became agitated, started shouting and hitting out in all directions, and attempted to stand up. The two escorts seated on either side of him attempted to keep him seated by holding his arms; they were supported by a back-up team of four escorts, three of whom took up positions behind his seat. One of these escort officers put his arm around the returnee’s neck from behind and used his other hand to pull the returnee’s nose upwards thus enabling his colleague to insert a bite protection into the returnee’s mouth.

      The reaction of the returnee was to increase his resistance, and a second escort officer from the back-up team intervened pulling the returnee’s head down onto an adjacent seat and placing his knee on the returnee’s head in order to exert pressure and gain compliance while the returnee’s hands were tied behind his back with a Velcro strap. Another escort officer applied pressure with his thumb to the returnee’s temple. A second Velcro strap was applied below the returnee’s knees to tie his legs. A helmet was placed on the returnee’s head, additional Velcro straps were applied to his arms and legs, and force was used in order to contain him manually. At this stage, three escorts were holding the returnee from behind his seat and an escort officer was seated either side of him. A sixth escort officer knelt on the returnee’s knees and upper legs, using his weight to keep the returnee seated. After some 15 minutes, this sixth escort officer gripped the returnee’s genitals with his left hand and repeatedly squeezed them for prolonged periods to gain the returnee’s compliance to calm down. When the aircraft took off some ten minutes later, two escorts were still standing upright behind the returnee’s seat to ensure that he remained seated. Shortly thereafter, the returnee calmed down when told that, if he remained compliant, most means of restraint would be removed. He remained cuffed, with his hands tied behind his back, for about one hour. As he remained calm, he was untied.

      55.In the course of this intervention, the delegation observed that, when the first escort officer from the back-up team put his arm around the returnee’s neck, the returnee started struggling to breath and became even more agitated, given that the pressure applied around his throat obstructed his respiratory tract momentarily. The CPT considers that any use of force must avoid inducing a sensation of asphyxia on the person concerned. As is reflected in the relevant internal instructions of the Federal Police, no control technique which impedes a person’s capacity to breath is authorised for use by escort officers.

      Moreover, the delegation observed that, each time the sixth escort officer applied pressure to squeeze the returnee’s genitals, he physically reacted by becoming more agitated. The CPT acknowledges that it will often be a difficult task to enforce a removal order in respect of a foreign national who is determined to stay on a State’s territory. Escorts may on occasion have to use force and apply means of restraint in order to effectively carry out the removal; however, the force used should be no more than is absolutely necessary. To ill-treat a person by squeezing the genitals, a technique which is clearly aimed at inflicting severe pain to gain compliance, is both excessive and inappropriate; this is all the more so given that the person was being restrained by six escorts.

      The CPT recommends that the German authorities take immediate action to end the application of these two techniques by Federal Police escort officers.

      56.The wearing of identification tags by staff involved in removal operations is also an important safeguard against possible abuse. The delegation noted that escort police officers from the Bavarian State Police and from the Federal Police did not wear any identification tag. The CPT recommends that all police escorts from the Federal Police as well as from all Länder police authorities wear a visible identification tag to make them easily identifiable (either by their name or an identification number).


  • La #France projette d’expulser deux ressortissants afghans vers Kaboul

    InfoMigrants a appris l’expulsion programmée de deux migrants afghans de la France vers l’Afghanistan en septembre. Il pourrait s’agir d’une première pour 2019. Paris « entend augmenter » les renvois de ressortissants afghans cette année.

    Deux migrants afghans actuellement en centre de rétention administrative (CRA) au Mesnil-Amelot (région parisienne) et à Rennes (Bretagne) sont sous le coup d’un arrêté d’expulsion vers l’Afghanistan a appris InfoMigrants auprès de sources gouvernementales afghanes. Leur éloignement doit avoir lieu les 7 et 18 septembre, a confirmé la Cimade présente dans ces deux CRA.

    Si ces deux expulsions vers Kaboul ont bien lieu, il s’agirait des premiers renvois forcés vers l’Afghanistan - dont on ait connaissance - pour l’année 2019. Jusqu’ici les seuls chiffres rendus publics dans un rapport sénatorial faisaient état de « moins de 20 expulsions vers l’Afghanistan en 2018 ».

    La France « entend augmenter » les expulsions en 2019

    Ces nouvelles expulsions pourraient marquer un tournant dans la politique française de renvois forcés vers Kaboul. D’autant qu’elles coïncident avec l’examen par l’Assemblée nationale le 18 septembre d’un projet de loi visant à ratifier un accord entre l’Union européenne et l’Afghanistan.

    L’article 28 de cet accord comporte un volet sur la coopération en matière d’immigration en vue « d’empêcher les flux irréguliers », relève Lola Schulmann, responsable de la question des migrants et des réfugiés à Amnesty International. L’ONG craint que ce dispositif ne facilite les renvois forcés de ressortissants afghans.

    Des craintes justifiées, puisque lors de la présentation de l’accord au Sénat, le rapporteur du projet de loi a expliqué que la France « entend[ait] augmenter » ces renvois forcés en 2019.

    Une situation sécuritaire dégradée en Afghanistan

    « La situation en Afghanistan est toujours aussi catastrophique pour les civils et empêche de considérer le pays comme sûr. Dans un tel contexte, les renvois forcés d’Afghans sont illégaux et violent le principe de non refoulement, lequel interdit tout renvoi d’une personne qui l’exposerait à des violations graves de ses droits », avait pourtant alerté Amnesty, aux côtés de la Cimade en juin.

    Il en va de même pour ces deux nouveaux cas. Les conditions sécuritaires déjà désastreuses continuent de se dégrader en Afghanistan. « L’Afghanistan est l’un des pays les plus touchés au monde par le terrorisme. Environ 2 000 incidents de sécurité sont comptabilisés chaque mois dans le pays », indique le ministère des Affaires étrangères français sur son site.

    Près de 1 692 civils ont été tués dans des attentats l’an dernier, recense l’ONU qui comptabilise les victimes. Ainsi 2018 marque l’année la plus meurtrière pour les civils afghans depuis 2009.

    Face à cette situation, la Cimade et Amnesty internationale réclament un moratoire de la France sur les renvois forcés de ressortissants afghans vers Kaboul. En attendant, ces associations continuent d’alerter les autorités françaises sur les cas individuels qui lui sont signalés. Elles ont saisi le ministère de l’Intérieur pour les deux Afghans menacés d’expulsion en septembre.

    Contacté par InfoMigrants, le ministère de l’Intérieur n’a, pour l’heure, pas répondu à nos sollicitations.

    #Afghanistan #renvois #expulsions #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_afghans

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Caught in Sri Lanka’s anti-Muslim backlash, evicted refugees search for safe homes

    Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers in Sri Lanka have spent the past three months searching for safety across the island nation after being swept up in an anti-Muslim backlash following the April terrorist attacks that killed more than 250 people.

    More than 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers were pushed from their rented homes after attackers struck six churches and hotels around the country.

    In the aftermath of the suicide blasts, rights groups say mobs in the coastal city of #Negombo – the site of one of April’s deadliest explosions – and elsewhere went door to door pressuring landlords to evict refugees, most of whom are religious minorities from #Pakistan and #Afghanistan, including members of persecuted sects.

    Local rights advocates and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, describe a volatile situation where plans to temporarily resettle displaced refugees were met with protests. In some cases, refugee families have gone from safehouse to safehouse only to be pushed out by local authorities.

    “Every effort that was made to relocate people was received with a lot of hostility,” said Menique Amarasinghe, the head of UNHCR’s Sri Lanka office.

    Roughly 90 refugees and asylum seekers forced from their homes are now living at a government-run facility in Vavuniya, in northern Sri Lanka, where they are under armed military guard. More than 100 other refugees are still sheltering at crowded mosques in Negombo and in nearby Pasyala, afraid to return to the surrounding communities.

    Ruki Fernando, a human rights advocate with the Colombo-based Inform Human Rights Documentation Centre, called the Vavuniya facility “a de facto prison”.

    “We’ve never had this situation in our history that refugees have been so scared they’ve had to live in camps guarded by armed forces,” Fernando said.

    Of the 1,000 people originally displaced, the UNHCR said 228 people are still looking for safe homes, including the 90 remaining in Vavuniya.

    The threats facing refugees are part of a larger anti-Muslim backlash that has deepened ethnic divisions in Sri Lanka since the Easter Sunday attacks, which authorities blame on a small group of Islamist extremists claiming allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

    Sri Lanka’s bloody 26-year civil war ended a decade ago, but analysts say the failure to reconcile wartime abuses has produced a culture of impunity that allows ethnic tensions to easily simmer today. Sri Lanka’s multiethnic society includes the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority, mostly Hindu Tamils, as well as large Muslim and Christian communities.

    Rights groups accuse Buddhist nationalists of stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment on social media, and Human Rights Watch says authorities have arbitrarily arrested hundreds of Sri Lankan Muslims using counterterrorism laws.
    Mosques become shelters

    In seaside Negombo, about 30 kilometres north of Colombo, a suicide bomber killed dozens of worshipers at the city’s St. Sebastian’s Church in April. The government declared days of curfews here in May after mobs attacked Muslim-owned businesses. Local landlords also evicted refugees and asylum seekers like Ahsan Mahmood, a 24-year-old Ahmadi Muslim from Pakistan.

    Mahmood fled to Sri Lanka two years ago. Along with 100 others, he has spent the last three months living inside the city’s Ahmadiyya mosque, which sits a few kilometres from the damaged church. Ahmadis are part of a Muslim sect that faces persecution in majority-Muslim countries like Pakistan; about 1,350 of the nearly 1,700 refugees or asylum seekers in Sri Lanka are Pakistani Ahmadis or Christians.

    Mahmood said he’s now too afraid to leave the mosque because his unkempt beard may raise suspicion. Like the others here, he relies on food donated by religious organisations and humanitarians.

    “When I go outside of the mosque I fear what will happen to me,” he said. “If the police stop me I have only two things to show them: my passport and refugee identification. If they don’t accept it, what would I do?”
    Refugees search for new homes

    With refugees like Mahmood evicted from their homes, the UNHCR said it had no option but to help relocate about 200 of the 1,000 displaced people to Vavuniya in mid-May. More than half have since returned to their communities or gone elsewhere.

    “We asked the government to provide a location with security to ensure they were kept safe during this time, with a clear understanding we weren’t looking for a place for them to be kept indefinitely,” Amarasinghe said.

    But finding more suitable refuge has been difficult.

    Amarasinghe said Vavuniya residents at first protested the decision to move refugees to the area until the UNHCR offered assurances it would be temporary. The government also guaranteed the facility would be under armed guard.

    The UNHCR is providing food and healthcare through a local NGO. But the refugees can’t receive visitors or move freely.

    Fernando said he tried to help evicted refugee families in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, move to safer areas in May, intending to place them with volunteer hosts in Jaffna in the north. But an attempt to move a single family was met with hostility there as well.

    “The host family registered them at the police on the day of the arrival, but the next day senior government officials opposed this,” Fernando said. “The distraught and exhausted refugee family was compelled to travel back to Colombo.”

    Rights activists and faith groups are still trying to protect refugees caught up in the backlash. Fernando said the Vavuniya facility is closed to visitors, but he’s trying to help a handful of residents there find better homes elsewhere in the country. In the last month, he said, a number of Sri Lankan families and a church have offered to host refugee families.

    The UNHCR is also meeting with police and local government officials in communities that had previously refused to register refugee families. It’s also meeting with local landlords to help more refugees return home or find new housing. The New Humanitarian was unable to reach government officials to comment on the issue.

    In Negombo, Sister Noel Christine, a Catholic nun, has become a defender of her hometown’s displaced asylum seekers and refugees.

    “These refugees have faced violence in their home countries and have come to Sri Lanka to seek asylum. Now they’ve had to leave their homes again,” Christine said.

    Each week, she brings food to dozens of men sheltering at the Ahmadiyya mosque, including Mahmood.

    The nun is also trying to heal the divided communities in Negombo. St. Sebastian’s Church re-opened its doors in late July, but the damage lingers for the city’s residents.

    “We’re all traumatised,” Christine said.

    She’s part of a local group – the Negombo United Citizens Alliance – created to help quell the hostility that followed the attack. “We come to the streets and we tell everyone not to resort to violence,” she said.

    But refugees like Mahmood describe a sharp contrast in their lives before and after the April attacks. He said local police and soldiers would occasionally harass him, but life was peaceful compared to the persecution he faced back home.

    Mahmood used to worry about his family still in Pakistan; now they fear for his safety as a refugee.

    “I pray for Sri Lanka,” he said. “I want it to be like it was before Easter Sunday.”

    #réfugiés #Sri_Lanka #Sri-Lanka #religion #islam #anti-musulmans #terrorisme #réfugiés_afghans #réfugiés_pakistanais

  • Afghan Migration to Germany: History and Current Debates

    In light of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Afghan migration to Germany accelerated in recent years. This has prompted debates and controversial calls for return.

    Historical Overview
    Afghan migration to Germany goes back to the first half of the 20th century. To a large extent, the arrival of Afghan nationals occurred in waves, which coincided with specific political regimes and periods of conflict in Afghanistan between 1978 and 2001. Prior to 1979 fewer than 2,000 Afghans lived in Germany. Most of them were either businesspeople or students. The trade city of Hamburg and its warehouses attracted numerous Afghan carpet dealers who subsequently settled with their families. Some families who were among the traders that came to Germany at an early stage still run businesses in the warehouse district of the city.[1]

    Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the number of Afghans seeking refuge and asylum in Germany increased sharply. Between 1980 and 1982 the population grew by around 3,000 persons per year. This was followed by a short period of receding numbers, before another period of immigration set in from 1985, when adherents of communist factions began facing persecution in Afghanistan. Following a few years with lower immigration rates, numbers started rising sharply again from 1989 onwards in the wake of the civil war in Afghanistan and due to mounting restrictions for Afghans living in Iran and Pakistan. Increasing difficulties in and expulsions from these two countries forced many Afghans to search for and move on to new destinations, including Germany.[2] Throughout the 1990s immigration continued with the rise of the Taliban and the establishment of a fundamentalist regime. After reaching a peak in 1995, numbers of incoming migrants from Afghanistan declined for several years. However, they began to rise again from about 2010 onwards as a result of continuing conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan on the one hand and persistently problematic living conditions for Afghans in Iran and Pakistan on the other hand.

    A particularly sharp increase occurred in the context of the ’long summer of migration’[3] in 2015, which continued in 2016 when a record number of 253,485 Afghan nationals were registered in Germany. This number includes established residents of Afghan origin as well as persons who newly arrived in recent years. This sharp increase is also mirrored in the number of asylum claims of Afghan nationals, which reached a historical peak of 127,012 in 2016. Following the peak in 2016 the Afghan migrant population has slightly decreased. Reasons for the numerical decrease include forced and voluntary return to Afghanistan, onward migration to third countries, and expulsion according to the so-called Dublin Regulation. Naturalisations also account for the declining number of Afghan nationals in Germany, albeit to a much lesser extent (see Figures 1 and 2).

    The Afghan Migrant Population in Germany
    Over time, the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of Afghan migrants changed significantly. Many of those who formed part of early immigrant cohorts were highly educated and had often occupied high-ranking positions in Afghanistan. A significant number had worked for the government, while others were academics, doctors or teachers.[4] Despite being well-educated, professionally trained and experienced, many Afghans who came to Germany as part of an early immigrant cohort were unable to find work in an occupational field that would match their professional qualifications. Over the years, levels of education and professional backgrounds of Afghans arriving to Germany became more diverse. On average, the educational and professional qualifications of those who came in recent years are much lower compared to earlier cohorts of Afghan migrants.

    At the end of 2017, the Federal Statistical Office registered 251,640 Afghan nationals in Germany. This migrant population is very heterogeneous as far as persons’ legal status is concerned. Table 1 presents a snapshot of the different legal statuses that Afghan nationals in Germany held in 2017.

    Similar to other European countrie [5], Germany has been receiving increasing numbers of unaccompanied Afghan minors throughout the last decade.[6] In December 2017, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) registered 10,453 persons of Afghan origin under the age of 18, including asylum seekers, holders of a temporary residence permit as well as persons with refugee status. The situation of unaccompanied minors is specific in the sense that they are under the auspices of the Children and Youth support services (Kinder- und Jugendhilfe). This implies that unaccompanied Afghan minors are entitled to specific accommodation and the support of a temporary guardian. According to the BAMF, education and professional integration are priority issues for the reception of unaccompanied minors. However, the situation of these migrants changes once they reach the age of 18 and become legally deportable.[7] For this reason, their period of residence in Germany is marked by ambiguity.

    Fairly modest at first, the number of naturalisations increased markedly from the late 1980s, which is likely to be connected to the continuous aggravation of the situation in Afghanistan.[8]

    With an average age of 23.7 years, Germany’s Afghan population is relatively young. Among Afghan residents who do not hold German citizenship there is a gender imbalance with males outweighing females by roughly 80,390 persons. Until recently, most Afghans arrived in Germany with their family. However, the individual arrival of Afghan men has been a dominant trend in recent years, which has become more pronounced from 2012 onwards with rising numbers of Afghan asylum seekers (see Figure 2).[9]

    The Politicization of Afghan Migration
    Prior to 2015, the Afghan migrant population that had not received much public attention. However, with the significant increase in numbers from 2015 onwards, it was turned into a subject of increased debate and politicization. The German military and reconstruction engagement in Afghanistan constitutes an important backdrop to the debates unfolding around the presence of Afghan migrants – most of whom are asylum seekers – in Germany. To a large extent, these debates revolved around the legitimacy of Afghan asylum claims. The claims of persons who, for example, supported German troops as interpreters were rarely questioned.[10] Conversely, the majority of newly arriving Afghans were framed as economic migrants rather than persons fleeing violence and persecution. In 2015, chancellor Angela Merkel warned Afghan nationals from coming to Germany for economic reasons and simply in search for a better life.[11] She underlined the distinction between “economic migrants” and persons facing concrete threats due to their past collaboration with German troops in Afghanistan. The increasing public awareness of the arrival of Afghan asylum seekers and growing skepticism regarding the legitimacy of their presence mark the context in which debates on deportations of Afghan nationals began to unfold.

    Deportations of Afghan Nationals: Controversial Debates and Implementation
    The Federal Government (Bundesregierung) started to consider deportations to Afghanistan in late 2015. Debates about the deportation of Afghan nationals were also held at the EU level and form an integral part of the Joint Way Forward agreement between Afghanistan and the EU. The agreement was signed in the second half of 2016 and reflects the commitment of the EU and the Afghan Government to step up cooperation on addressing and preventing irregular migration [12] and encourage return of irregular migrants such as persons whose asylum claims are rejected. In addition, the governments of Germany and Afghanistan signed a bilateral agreement on the return of Afghan nationals to their country of origin. At that stage it was estimated that around five percent of all Afghan nationals residing in Germany were facing return.[13] To back plans of forced removal, the Interior Ministry stated that there are “internal protection alternatives”, meaning areas in Afghanistan that are deemed sufficiently safe for people to be deported to and that a deterioration of security could not be confirmed for the country as such.[14] In addition, the BAMF would individually examine and conduct specific risk assessments for each asylum application and potential deportees respectively.

    Country experts and international actors such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) agree on the absence of internal protection alternatives in Afghanistan, stating that there are no safe areas in the country.[15] Their assessments are based on the continuously deteriorating security situation. Since 2014, annual numbers of civilian deaths and casualties continuously exceed 10,000 with a peak of 11,434 in 2016. This rise in violent incidents has been recorded in 33 of 34 provinces. In August 2017 the United Nations changed their assessment of the situation in Afghanistan from a “post-conflict country” to “a country undergoing a conflict that shows few signs of abating”[16] for the first time after the fall of the Taliban. However, violence occurs unevenly across Afghanistan. In 2017 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), registered the highest levels of civilian casualties in Kabul province and Kabul city more specifically. After Kabul, the highest numbers of civilian casualties were recorded in Helmand, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Faryab, Uruzgan, Herat, Paktya, Kunduz, and Laghman provinces.[17]

    Notwithstanding deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan and parliamentary, non-governmental and civil society protests, Germany’s Federal Government implemented a first group deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan in late 2016. Grounds for justification of these measures were not only the assumed “internal protection alternatives”. In addition, home secretary Thomas de Maizière emphasised that many of the deportees were convicted criminals.[18] The problematic image of male Muslim immigrants in the aftermath of the incidents on New Year’s Eve in the city of Cologne provides fertile ground for such justifications of deportations to Afghanistan. “The assaults (sexualized physical and property offences) which young, unmarried Muslim men committed on New Year’s Eve offered a welcome basis for re-framing the ‘refugee question’ as an ethnicized and sexist problem.”[19]

    It is important to note that many persons of Afghan origin spent long periods – if not most or all of their lives – outside Afghanistan in one of the neighboring countries. This implies that many deportees are unfamiliar with life in their country of citizenship and lack local social networks. The same applies to persons who fled Afghanistan but who are unable to return to their place of origin for security reasons. The existence of social networks and potential support structures, however, is particularly important in countries marked by high levels of insecurity, poverty, corruption, high unemployment rates and insufficient (public) services and infrastructure.[20] Hence, even if persons who are deported to Afghanistan may be less exposed to a risk of physical harm in some places, the absence of social contacts and support structures still constitutes an existential threat.

    Debates on and executions of deportations to Afghanistan have been accompanied by parliamentary opposition on the one hand and street-level protests on the other hand. Non-governmental organisations such as Pro Asyl and local refugee councils have repeatedly expressed their criticism of forced returns to Afghanistan.[21] The execution of deportations has been the responsibility of the federal states (Ländersache). This leads to significant variations in the numbers of deportees. In light of a degrading security situation in Afghanistan, several governments of federal states (Landesregierungen) moreover paused deportations to Afghanistan in early 2017. Concomitantly, recognition rates of Afghan asylum seekers have continuously declined.[22]

    A severe terrorist attack on the German Embassy in Kabul on 31 May 2017 led the Federal Government to revise its assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan and to temporarily pause deportations to the country. According to chancellor Merkel, the temporary ban of deportations was contingent on the deteriorating security situation and could be lifted once a new, favourable assessment was in place. While pausing deportations of rejected asylum seekers without criminal record, the Federal Government continued to encourage voluntary return and deportations of convicted criminals of Afghan nationality as well as individuals committing identity fraud during their asylum procedure.

    The ban of deportations of rejected asylum seekers without criminal record to Afghanistan was lifted in July 2018, although the security situation in the country continues to be very volatile.[23] The decision was based on a revised assessment of the security situation through the Foreign Office and heavily criticised by the centre left opposition in parliament as well as by NGOs and churches. Notwithstanding such criticism, the attitude of the Federal Government has been rigorous. By 10 January 2019, 20 group deportation flights from Germany to Kabul were executed, carrying a total number of 475 Afghans.[24]

    Assessing the Situation in Afghanistan
    Continuing deportations of Afghan nationals are legitimated by the assumption that certain regions in Afghanistan fulfil the necessary safety requirements for deportees. But how does the Federal Government – and especially the BAMF – come to such arbitrary assessments of the security situation on the one hand and individual prospects on the other hand? While parliamentary debates about deportations to Afghanistan were ongoing, the news magazine Spiegel reported on how the BAMF conducts security assessments for Afghanistan. According to their revelations, BAMF staff hold weekly briefings on the occurrence of military combat, suicide attacks, kidnappings and targeted killings. If the proportion of civilian casualties remains below 1:800, the level of individual risk is considered low and insufficient for someone to be granted protection in Germany.[25] The guidelines of the BAMF moreover rule that young men who are in working age and good health are assumed to find sufficient protection and income opportunities in Afghanistan’s urban centres, so that they are able to secure to meet the subsistence level. Such possibilities are even assumed to exist for persons who cannot mobilise family or other social networks for their support. Someone’s place or region of origin is another aspect considered when assessing whether or not Afghan asylum seekers are entitled to remain in Germany. The BAMF examines the security and supply situation of the region where persons were born or where they last lived before leaving Afghanistan. These checks also include the question which religious and political convictions are dominant at the place in question. According to these assessment criteria, the BAMF considers the following regions as sufficiently secure: Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Bamiyan, Takhar, Samangan and Panjshir.[26]

    Voluntary Return
    In addition to executing the forced removal of rejected Afghan asylum seekers, Germany encourages the voluntary return of Afghan nationals.[27] To this end it supports the Reintegration and Emigration Programme for Asylum Seekers in Germany which covers travel expenses and offers additional financial support to returnees. Furthermore, there is the Government Assisted Repatriation Programme, which provides financial support to persons who wish to re-establish themselves in their country of origin. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) organises and supervises return journeys that are supported by these programmes. Since 2015, several thousand Afghan nationals left Germany with the aid of these programmes. Most of these voluntary returnees were persons who had no legal residence status in Germany, for example persons whose asylum claim had been rejected or persons holding an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung).

    The continuing conflict in Afghanistan not only causes death, physical and psychological hurt but also leads to the destruction of homes and livelihoods and impedes access to health, education and services for large parts of the Afghan population. This persistently problematic situation affects the local population as much as it affects migrants who – voluntarily or involuntarily – return to Afghanistan. For this reason, migration out of Afghanistan is likely to continue, regardless of the restrictions which Germany and other receiving states are putting into place.

    #Allemagne #Afghanistan #réfugiés_afghans #histoire #asile #migrations #réfugiés #chiffres #statistiques #renvois #expulsions #retour_volontaire #procédure_d'asile
    ping @_kg_

  • Inter-sectoral cooperation for Afghan refugee education in Iran

    A recent decree in Iran removed a legal barrier to undocumented refugee children attending school but other barriers remain. One non-governmental organisation discusses the successes and challenges of adopting an inter-sectoral approach to breaking down these barriers.

    #éducation #scolarisation #Iran #réfugiés #asile #migrations #enfants #enfance #réfugiés_afghans #sans-papiers

  • Le suicide d’un jeune réfugié à Genève attriste et interpelle

    Mercredi 27 mars 2019, un jeune homme originaire d’Afghanistan qui était venu chercher protection en Suisse a voulu mettre fin à sa vie. Il est décédé deux jours plus tard à l’hôpital malgré les soins intensifs qui lui ont été prodigués. Ce suicide, au sein d’une structure qui accueille des personnes mineures et devenues majeures, […]

    • Mineurs non accompagnés : « Personne ne nous écoute ! »

      Les amis du jeune requérant décédé au foyer de l’Etoile font part de leur #désespoir et dénoncent leurs conditions d’accueil.

      Le suicide d’un jeune Afghan, Ali, fin mars au foyer de l’Etoile, a une nouvelle fois mis en lumière le désarroi des requérants d’asile arrivés en Suisse mineurs et sans parents (RMNA). Depuis plusieurs années, des manquements dans l’encadrement et l’accompagnement de cette population doublement vulnérable est pointé du doigt. Sept amis de Ali ont convoqué des médias ce week-end, par l’intermédiaire de l’association Solidarité Tattes, pour faire entendre leur voix.

      « On est perdus. On est seuls. On ne peut pas parler de nos problèmes. On ne sait pas à qui. Aujourd’hui nous avons perdu Ali. Ce sera qui demain ? », lance d’emblée Anthony*, ami du jeune Afghan. « On ne veut pas d’autres Ali. C’est pour ça que nous sommes là. Nous voulons parler avec des journalistes, parce que personne ne nous écoute. Rien ne change au foyer de l’Etoile. »

      Le désespoir de ces jeunes est palpable. Leur douleur aussi. « Ali était notre ami, notre famille. Il était venu en Suisse pour construire une nouvelle vie, avoir un avenir », raconte Arash*. « Mais au foyer de l’Etoile, ce n’était pas possible de penser y arriver. La situation le tirait vers le bas. Il allait beaucoup mieux quand il était à l’hôpital, ou à Malatavie1. Dès qu’il rentrait au foyer, il replongeait. »

      #Agents_de_sécurité violents

      « Il y a beaucoup de #violence à l’Etoile », insistent-ils. « Les agents de sécurité devraient nous protéger, mais au contraire ils nous frappent », affirme Matin*. Les jeunes parlent de #brutalité récurrente, mais insistent sur un événement en particulier, qui a eu lieu en 2016, et qui a été filmé. « Cinq #Protectas ont frappé Ali, après avoir déjà mis K.O. un autre mineur. Tout ça, parce qu’ils ne voulaient pas qu’ils se coupent les cheveux dans le salon. »

      Les images sont fortes. On voit en effet un jeune étendu au sol, immobile. Puis des actes de violence, partiellement hors cadre. Si ce document ne donne pas d’indication sur l’origine du conflit, on voit bien des agents de sécurité donner des coups violents à destination d’un jeune que ses amis identifient comme Ali. « Celui qu’on voit au sol inconscient sur la vidéo n’a plus pu dormir au foyer pendant des mois. Il n’y arrivait plus. Il passait ses nuits au bord du lac », raconte Anthony.

      Plus globalement, les #conditions_de_vie au foyer de l’Etoile sont dénoncées par les jeunes. « Il y a toujours du bruit. L’hiver il fait hyper froid, l’été super chaud, explique Matin. On doit se faire à manger nous-même. Moi ça va, j’aime bien ça. Mais d’autres ne savent pas cuisiner. Les agents entrent sans demander dans nos chambres… Dans les autres foyers, plus petits, mieux encadrés, on peut bien vivre. Mais pas à l’Etoile. »

      « Quant on dit que ça ne va pas, on nous répond que ce sont les politiques qui doivent faire changer les choses. Mais nous, comment on parle aux politiques ? », interroge Anthony. Et Matin de suggérer : « Il faudrait que les responsables envoient un de leur proche qui a notre âge passer une semaine à l’Etoile, pour qu’ils se rendent compte des conditions. Parce que nous, on ne nous voit pas comme des êtres humains. »
      Plainte déposée

      Ariane Daniel Merkelbach, directrice de l’aide aux migrants à l’Hospice général, confirme l’existence d’un « incident grave » survenu en 2016 avec des agents de sécurité. « Quoi qu’il se soit passé avant, il est inacceptable qu’un agent frappe un jeune. Le Service de la protection des mineurs a d’ailleurs porté plainte contre l’agent, qui a lui aussi déposé une plainte. Il a reçu une petite sanction de la justice et son entreprise l’a retiré du site de l’Etoile. »

      La responsable de l’Hospice affirme cependant qu’il s’agit d’un acte isolé. « Nous avons alors engagé huit intervenants de nuit, pour faire les rondes du soir avec une attitude de médiation, portée sur l’éducatif. Ils sont là en complément de la vingtaine d’éducateurs présents de 6h à 22h. Nous avons aussi organisé des cours de gestion des conflits pour les agents de sécurité. Depuis, ça se passe beaucoup mieux. Il peut bien sûr y avoir des frictions entre les jeunes et les agents, notamment à l’entrée. Mais si c’est le cas, les éducateurs interviennent. »

      Ariane Daniel Merkelbach explique également qu’il y a tout un appareil d’écoute pour les jeunes. Que les interlocuteurs existent, et qu’ils sont entendus. « Mais c’est dur pour eux. Ils ne reçoivent pas forcément les réponses qu’ils attendent. Ils sont dans une situation très difficile. Ils font face à une montagne d’écueils, leurs rêves s’effondrent. C’est d’ailleurs pour cela que nous avons demandé une concertation entre tous les acteurs de l’accueil. Pour clarifier les rôles, mieux les accompagner après leur majorité, pour réellement intégrer ces jeunes. »

      *Prénoms d’emprunt


    • Des éducateurs du #Foyer_de_l'Étoile alertent les autorités

      Des collaborateurs dénoncent l’échec de la prise en charge des jeunes migrants dans une lettre aux députés.

      Cinq mois après le suicide du jeune Ali, 18 ans, les éducateurs du Foyer de l’Étoile sortent du bois. Dans une lettre de quatre pages adressée à la fin du mois d’août à Jocelyne Haller, la présidente de la Commission des affaires sociales du Grand Conseil, 21 collaborateurs – sur 36 – de ce centre d’hébergement destiné aux requérants d’asile mineurs non accompagnés (RMNA) alertent les autorités sur une série de dysfonctionnements. Ils dénoncent l’échec de la prise en charge de ces jeunes migrants et le silence de l’Hospice général malgré leurs nombreuses mises en garde.

      « Le suicide d’un jeune est l’événement redouté, mais pas incompréhensible, qui suit quatre années d’épuisement et d’instabilité », notent les éducateurs dans leur courrier. La liste des griefs à l’égard de leur hiérarchie est longue. De manière générale, les collaborateurs du foyer lui reprochent de sous-estimer « gravement » l’accompagnement socio-éducatif des RMNA, des adolescents aux parcours chaotiques et traumatismes importants. Le manque de moyens alloués au centre génère selon eux une souffrance au travail, un épuisement et une démotivation au sein de l’équipe.

      Les éducateurs dénoncent en outre la « taille inhumaine du foyer », un mandat peu clair de l’Hospice général ainsi qu’une « vision institutionnelle inadéquate » et « éloignée des principes censés inspirer notre institution ». Ils regrettent que l’empathie et le lien soient souvent considérés comme un obstacle à l’autonomie des jeunes, que le parcours personnel des RMNA ne soit pas pris en compte et qu’une « logique d’uniformisation de l’intervention » leur soit imposée.

      « Nous avons pris acte »

      Que répondent l’Hospice général et le Canton à ces critiques ? « Nous avons pris acte de la prise de position d’une partie des collaborateurs de l’Étoile », déclare Bernard Manguin, au nom de l’institution. Le porte-parole relève cependant qu’un certain nombre de mesures ont déjà été mises en place. Il cite la création d’un comité de gestion regroupant les différents métiers relatifs à la prise en charge des RMNA et ex-RMNA à la fin d’avril ainsi qu’un projet de collaboration avec des professionnels de la Fondation officielle de la jeunesse (FOJ) et la Fondation genevoise pour l’animation socioculturelle.

      De son côté, Thierry Apothéloz, magistrat de tutelle de l’Hospice général, rappelle que le centre de l’Étoile n’a pas été construit à l’origine pour accueillir des mineurs et constituait donc une mesure d’urgence. « Le Conseil d’État est conscient de certaines améliorations possibles dans la prise en charge des RMNA et a, à ce titre, accepté les recommandations du rapport de la Cour des comptes », assure-t-il.

      Trois motions en cours

      Trois motions ont été déposées ce printemps au Grand Conseil concernant l’encadrement des jeunes migrants. Les textes demandent un accompagnement socio-éducatif des ex-RMNA jusqu’à 25 ans, une prise en charge de ces jeunes par la FOJ et une autorisation exceptionnelle octroyée aux personnes déboutées de l’asile dont le renvoi n’est pas réalisable de pouvoir terminer leur formation. Acceptées par une large majorité des membres de la Commission des affaires sociales, les motions doivent être débattues en plénière lors de la prochaine session du Grand Conseil.

      Hasard du calendrier, cette même commission est actuellement en train d’étudier le rapport de gestion de l’Hospice général. À la suite à la lettre reçue des collaborateurs du Foyer de l’Étoile, elle pourrait formuler certaines remarques à l’égard du Grand Conseil. La Haute École de travail social a d’autre part rédigé un rapport sur les besoins des RMNA et ex-RMNA. Attendues cet été, ses conclusions devraient être communiquées dans les semaines à venir, annonce le Département de l’instruction publique.



    This document compiles information from selected European countries, specifically, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. It covers cases from 2017 and 2018 that relate to the return of Afghan nationals, assessed in light of their personal circumstances and the security situation in the country. Whilst every effort has been put into finding relevant case law, the cases cited are, by no means, exhaustive. Where court decisions were not available in English ECRE has supplied a translation.

    #Afghanistan #retour_au_pays #expulsions #renvois #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_afghans #Autriche #Belgique #Finlande #France #Allemagne #Pays-Bas #Norvège #Suède #Suisse #UK #Angleterre

    ping @karine4

  • Education : needs, rights and access in displacement

    Education is one of the most important aspects of our lives – vital to our development, our understanding and our personal and professional fulfilment throughout life. In times of crisis, however, millions of displaced young people miss out on months or years of education, and this is damaging to them and their families, as well as to their societies, both in the short and long term. This issue of FMR includes 29 articles on Education, and two ‘general’ articles.

    #éducation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #droit_à_l'éducation #accès_à_l'éducation #scolarisation #déscolarisation #Syrie #conflit #guerre #genre #abus_sexuels #viols #Jordanie #Dadaab #Kenya #Grèce #écoles_de_rue #France #bus_école #Ouganda #Ethiopie #Palestine #réfugiés_palestiniens #Rwanda #UK #Angleterre #réfugiés_syriens #Turquie #MNA #mineurs_non_accompagnés #USA #Etats-Unis #travail_forcé #enfants #enfance #Iran #réfugiés_afghans #université #Myanmar #Birmanie #réfugiés_rohingya #Rohingya

  • Pour le #TAF, s’opposer aux talibans n’est pas une #opinion_politique : asile refusé

    Parce qu’il refuse de commettre des violences pour le compte des talibans, « Qassim » est détenu et torturé. Il s’échappe et demande l’asile en Suisse. Son état de santé psychique atteste de son vécu traumatique mais le SEM rejette sa demande. Pour le TAF, le récit de « Qassim » est crédible et le risque de #persécution est vraisemblable, mais ne constitue pas un #motif_d’asile. « Qassim » se voit donc refuser l’asile et obtient une #admission_provisoire.

    #réfugiés_afghans #Afghanistan #Suisse #asile #migrations #réfugiés #talibans #torture #vraisemblance #statut_de_réfugié #droit_d'asile

  • Réfugiés afghans en France, #taux_de_protection

    En étudiant les statistiques d’Eurostat je constate quelque chose d’étonnant : le pourcentage d’accord de protection baisse étrangement sur les 2e et 3e trimestre 2018, en France.
    Le taux de reconnaissance en France est stable depuis plusieurs années, entre 80 et 85%, mais au 2e trimestre 2018 il baisse à 79%, et descend jusqu’à 59% au 3e trimestre. Pas de statistiques encore dispo pour le 4e trimestre.
    Je joins le graphique réalisé à partir des données Eurostat, avez-vous une idée pour expliquer ça ?

    J’ai vérifié, à l’échelle européenne je ne constate pas de baisse similaire, au 3e trimestre 2018 il y a même plutôt une augmentation (54%, alors qu’on est plutôt dans les 46% de taux moyens sur les 10 précédents trimestres.

    En Allemagne, le taux d’obtention est lui aussi assez stable (dans les 45%), malgré une baisse énorme des demandes pour les afghans (46 745 demandes au premier trimestre 2017, et 2890 demandes au 4e trimestre 2018).

    #taux_de_reconnaissance #asile #migrations #réfugiés #statistiques #2017 #2018 #2016 #réfugiés_afghans #Afghanistan

    –-> Email de David Torondel, reçu via la mailing-list Migreurp

  • Report to the EU Parliament on #Frontex cooperation with third countries in 2017

    A recent report by Frontex, the EU’s border agency, highlights the ongoing expansion of its activities with non-EU states.

    The report covers the agency’s cooperation with non-EU states ("third countries") in 2017, although it was only published this month.

    See: Report to the European Parliament on Frontex cooperation with third countries in 2017: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-report-ep-third-countries-coop-2017.pdf (pdf)

    It notes the adoption by Frontex of an #International_Cooperation_Strategy 2018-2020, “an integral part of our multi-annual programme” which:

    “guides the Agency’s interactions with third countries and international organisations… The Strategy identified the following priority regions with which Frontex strives for closer cooperation: the Western Balkans, Turkey, North and West Africa, Sub-Saharan countries and the Horn of Africa.”

    The Strategy can be found in Annex XIII to the 2018-20 Programming Document: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf (pdf).

    The 2017 report on cooperation with third countries further notes that Frontex is in dialogue with Senegal, #Niger and Guinea with the aim of signing Working Agreements at some point in the future.

    The agency deployed three Frontex #Liaison_Officers in 2017 - to Niger, Serbia and Turkey - while there was also a #European_Return_Liaison_Officer deployed to #Ghana in 2018.

    The report boasts of assisting the Commission in implementing informal agreements on return (as opposed to democratically-approved readmission agreements):

    "For instance, we contributed to the development of the Standard Operating Procedures with #Bangladesh and the “Good Practices for the Implementation of Return-Related Activities with the Republic of Guinea”, all forming important elements of the EU return policy that was being developed and consolidated throughout 2017."

    At the same time:

    “The implementation of 341 Frontex coordinated and co-financed return operations by charter flights and returning 14 189 third-country nationals meant an increase in the number of return operations by 47% and increase of third-country nationals returned by 33% compared to 2016.”

    Those return operations included Frontex’s:

    “first joint return operation to #Afghanistan. The operation was organised by Hungary, with Belgium and Slovenia as participating Member States, and returned a total of 22 third country nationals to Afghanistan. In order to make this operation a success, the participating Member States and Frontex needed a coordinated support of the European Commission as well as the EU Delegation and the European Return Liaison Officers Network in Afghanistan.”

    #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers
    #Balkans #Turquie #Afrique_de_l'Ouest #Afrique_du_Nord #Afrique_sub-saharienne #Corne_de_l'Afrique #Guinée #Sénégal #Serbie #officiers_de_liaison #renvois #expulsions #accords_de_réadmission #machine_à_expulsion #Hongrie #Belgique #Slovénie #réfugiés_afghans

    • EP civil liberties committee against proposal to give Frontex powers to assist non-EU states with deportations

      The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) has agreed its position for negotiations with the Council on the new Frontex Regulation, and amongst other things it hopes to deny the border agency the possibility of assisting non-EU states with deportations.

      The position agreed by the LIBE committee removes Article 54(2) of the Commission’s proposal, which says:

      “The Agency may also launch return interventions in third countries, based on the directions set out in the multiannual strategic policy cycle, where such third country requires additional technical and operational assistance with regard to its return activities. Such intervention may consist of the deployment of return teams for the purpose of providing technical and operational assistance to return activities of the third country.”

      The report was adopted by the committee with 35 votes in favour, nine against and eight abstentions.

      When the Council reaches its position on the proposal, the two institutions will enter into secret ’trilogue’ negotiations, along with the Commission.

      Although the proposal to reinforce Frontex was only published last September, the intention is to agree a text before the European Parliament elections in May.

      The explanatory statement in the LIBE committee’s report (see below) says:

      “The Rapporteur proposes a number of amendments that should enable the Agency to better achieve its enhanced objectives. It is crucial that the Agency has the necessary border guards and equipment at its disposal whenever this is needed and especially that it is able to deploy them within a short timeframe when necessary.”

      European Parliament: Stronger European Border and Coast Guard to secure EU’s borders: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190211IPR25771/stronger-european-border-and-coast-guard-to-secure-eu-s-borders (Press release, link):

      “- A new standing corps of 10 000 operational staff to be gradually rolled out
      - More efficient return procedures of irregular migrants
      - Strengthened cooperation with non-EU countries

      New measures to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard to better address migratory and security challenges were backed by the Civil Liberties Committee.”

      See: REPORT on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Council Joint Action n°98/700/JHA, Regulation (EU) n° 1052/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EU) n° 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/ep-libe-report-frontex.pdf (pdf)

      The Commission’s proposal and its annexes can be found here: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/sep/eu-soteu-jha-proposals.htm


  • Cartographie | La migration des mineurs non accompagnés

    Combien sont-ils ces enfants partis seul·es sur les routes de l’exil ? D’où viennent-ils ? Comment les accueille-t-on et les protège-t-on ? Eurostat développe et publie des statistiques sur les mineurs non accompagnés [1]. Des données qui permettent de spatialiser notre regard sur cet aspect de la migration internationale. Ce dossier cartographique a été réalisé par Philippe […]

  • « Je suis devenu fou, je veux retourner au bled » : les migrants qui optent pour un #retour_volontaire

    L’aide au retour volontaire a concerné en 2018 plus de 10 000 personnes, dont beaucoup d’Afghans.

    Il a les yeux rouge vif. A plusieurs reprises, il demande s’il pourra aller aux toilettes après l’enregistrement. Dans un hall de l’aéroport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, Noorislam Oriakhail vit ses derniers moments en France, fébrile. Il prend l’avion pour la première fois de sa vie. Au bout du voyage : l’Afghanistan. Comme 1 055 Afghans en 2018, des hommes majoritairement, Noorislam a choisi de rentrer. Ils étaient déjà 970 à avoir opté pour un « retour volontaire » depuis la France en 2017. Volet peu connu de la politique d’éloignement des étrangers en situation irrégulière, l’aide au retour volontaire a concerné cette année plus de 10 000 personnes au total, un chiffre en hausse de 58 % sur un an.

    Après les Albanais et devant les Moldaves, les Afghans sont les plus concernés par ce dispositif mis en œuvre par l’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII). Une situation qui s’explique : ils sont les premiers demandeurs d’asile en 2018. En outre, précise Didier Leschi, le directeur général de l’OFII, « lorsqu’ils arrivent en France, ils ont déjà déposé en moyenne près de deux demandes d’asile en Europe, principalement en Allemagne et en Suède, où elle a été rejetée ». Ils entrent donc dans la catégorie dite des « Dublinés », ne peuvent pas demander l’asile en France avant un délai de six à dix-huit mois. Dans l’intervalle, ils sont en situation irrégulière.

    L’OFII assume une politique volontariste à leur endroit : « Nous les démarchons pour leur proposer l’aide au retour, d’autant que les retours forcés sont très difficiles », reconnaît Didier Leschi. Au premier semestre, avec 23 éloignements, le taux d’exécution des obligations de quitter le territoire français prononcées à l’encontre des Afghans atteignait 4 %. En plus d’être moins onéreux qu’un éloignement forcé, les retours volontaires ont beaucoup plus de succès.

    « Trop de pression »

    Noorislam est « fatigué » de ne pas parvenir à s’extirper d’une situation précaire. D’un voyage entamé en 2006 et financé par son père et un oncle, il est arrivé « jeune et fort » sur le continent, avec l’Angleterre en ligne de mire. « C’était un rêve, reconnaît-il. J’ai essayé cinq ou six fois avant de réussir à monter dans un camion. » Outre-Manche, il est pris en charge en tant que mineur. Mais, à sa majorité, sa demande d’asile est rejetée et il devient « illégal ».

    Dans la ville de Loughborough (centre de l’Angleterre), Noorislam s’enfonce, affaibli par des soucis de santé. Le petit sac à dos qui lui fait office d’unique bagage après plus d’une décennie en Europe est « rempli de médicaments ». Le jeune homme souffre d’une dystrophie de la rétine – une maladie génétique caractérisée par un déficit visuel très important – et, depuis un an et demi, il explique avoir des problèmes d’incontinence. « Les médecins disent que c’est dans ma tête, assure-t-il, en montrant sa boîte d’antidépresseurs. Si je n’avais pas été malade, j’aurais pu m’en sortir mais, vu ma situation, je lutte pour tout. »

    « Si je n’avais pas été malade, j’aurais pu m’en sortir mais, vu ma situation, je lutte pour tout », témoigne Noorislam Oriakhail avant de monter dans l’avion

    Avec le sentiment d’avoir « perdu [son] temps », Noorislam s’est glissé dans un camion en janvier pour faire le chemin inverse de celui réussi il y a dix ans. Arrivé à Calais, après une nuit dans « le froid et la pluie », il croise des agents de l’OFII. Il est hébergé et on l’informe sur l’asile et le retour volontaire. « J’avais deux semaines pour choisir ou je devais quitter le centre », se souvient-il. Après des atermoiements, Noorislam s’oriente vers l’asile. Mais il est « dubliné », ce qui signifie qu’il risque d’être transféré vers l’Angleterre ou, à défaut, d’errer plusieurs mois avant de pouvoir déposer une demande en France. Il jette l’éponge. « C’est trop de pression », confie-t-il. Le jeune homme rentre en Afghanistan mais, en réalité, il ne doit pas s’y attarder. Sa famille s’est installée au Pakistan alors qu’il était enfant. « Mon père m’a dit qu’il m’aiderait à passer la frontière. »

    Le jour où Noorislam a embarqué, un autre Afghan devait prendre l’avion, mais il ne s’est jamais présenté. En 2018, quelque 1 500 personnes se sont ainsi désistées après avoir demandé une aide au retour. « Ce sont des gens qui peuvent être instables psychologiquement, justifie Didier Leschi. Il y a quelques semaines, un Pakistanais a fait une crise d’angoisse et a dû être débarqué avant le décollage. Depuis, il veut repartir. »

    Qu’est-ce qui motive un retour au pays ? « On ne connaît pas le parcours de ces gens », reconnaît Nadira Khemliche, adjointe au chef du service voyagiste de l’OFII, qui accompagne les candidats au départ à Roissy ou à Orly, jusqu’à leur embarquement sur des vols commerciaux. Nadira Khemliche ne distingue que des profils, les Arméniens qui voyagent en famille, les Chinois qui ont des vols tous les jours, les Ethiopiens qu’elle ne croise que deux ou trois fois l’an… « Parfois, on se demande pourquoi ils veulent rentrer en sachant qu’il y a des bombes chez eux, confie-t-elle. Mais bon, ici, ils n’ont rien. » « Quel est le choix réel de ces gens ?, s’interroge Clémence Richard, en charge des questions « expulsions » à la Cimade. Ils sont à la rue, épuisés socialement, précarisés administrativement. »

    Candidatures marginales

    Pour promouvoir le retour volontaire, l’OFII se déplace sur des campements, dans des centres d’hébergement du 115 ou des centres de demandeurs d’asile dans lesquels s’éternisent des déboutés. L’office tient même des stands dans des salons « diasporiques ». Le retour volontaire donne droit à un billet d’avion et à un « pécule » dont le montant varie. Les Afghans ont actuellement droit à 1 650 euros. Un programme européen permet aussi de financer un projet de réinsertion à hauteur de 3 500 euros.

    Sur un pan de mur de son bureau, à Calais, Laura Defachel, agent du retour volontaire et de la réinsertion de l’OFII, a accroché des photos d’hommes devant des troupeaux de bêtes, dans les montagnes afghanes. « Beaucoup ont saisi l’opportunité pour se lancer dans l’élevage, ouvrir une épicerie ou un magasin de pièces détachées, devenir taxi, assure-t-elle. C’est déterminant pour ceux qui sont partis de leur pays avec la promesse de faire mieux. » Depuis deux mois, toutefois, ce programme a été suspendu, dans l’attente d’un renouvellement. En 2016, l’année du démantèlement de la « jungle », le bureau de Calais a monté plus de 500 dossiers de départs volontaires, les trois quarts en direction de l’Afghanistan et du Pakistan.

    Les candidats au départ restent toutefois marginaux. « Ce sont surtout les personnes épuisées qui ne souhaitent pas demander l’asile en France ou des personnes qui rentrent pour des raisons familiales », analyse Laura Defachel. Elle se souvient de cet homme qui a souhaité partir après la mort de son frère, qui avait fait le voyage avec lui. Il était monté à bord d’un camion et, réalisant qu’il ne prenait pas la direction de l’Angleterre, est descendu en marche. Il s’est tué sur l’autoroute.

    Warseem Mohamad Kareem rentre dans la première catégorie. « C’est Londres ou l’Afghanistan », résume-t-il. Alors qu’il s’apprête à embarquer pour un vol retour, le jeune homme de 27 ans dit avoir dépensé 11 000 dollars (9 645 euros) pour rejoindre l’Europe. Arrivé en France il y a trois mois, il s’est retrouvé dans un cul-de-sac, à Calais et à Grande-Synthe, dans des tentes ou sous un pont. Avec des passeurs afghans ou kurdes, il a tenté vingt ou trente fois de monter dans des camions pour l’Angleterre. A chaque fois, il a été attrapé par la police.

    Le froid, la pluie, la police qui le chasse tous les matins, l’échec ont finalement eu raison de sa détermination. Lors du dernier démantèlement de Grande-Synthe, il a croisé les maraudeurs de l’OFII. « Nous avons faim de paix, pas d’argent », dit-il à l’agent qui lui remet, dans la salle d’embarquement, une enveloppe de billets. Warseem ne s’interdit pas de revenir, un jour. Il semble ignorer qu’il fait l’objet d’une obligation de quitter le territoire et d’une interdiction de retour pendant un an. Une pratique que toutes les préfectures ne mettent pas en œuvre, mais que l’OFII souhaite développer pour éviter les désistements et les retours. Des méthodes « déloyales », dénonce Clémence Richard : « Cela supprime de fait le droit au désistement. En outre, ces personnes ne rentrent pas dans les catégories de la loi susceptibles de se voir prononcer une interdiction de retour, c’est illégal et ça a aussi des conséquences graves, car cela rend quasi impossible toute demande de visa ultérieure. »

    A court d’argent et d’aide

    En matière de départ volontaire, la contrainte affleure. A partir du 1er janvier 2019, dans le cadre de la loi asile et immigration votée en 2018, les agents de l’OFII iront promouvoir l’aide au retour dans les centres de rétention administrative. Partir de gré, pour ne pas risquer de partir de force. C’est peut-être le dilemme qui aurait fini par se poser à Noorullah Nori. Débouté de l’asile en Allemagne, puis en France, à court d’argent et d’aide, il a signé pour un retour en Afghanistan, après quatre ans en Europe.

    « Moi aussi l’OFII m’a proposé le retour, mais jamais je ne rentrerai », jure Karimi, un Afghan qui a accompagné Noorullah à l’aéroport, après l’avoir recueilli tandis qu’il dormait à la rue. Passé par les errances d’un « Dubliné », Karimi est désormais réfugié en France. A voix basse, il dit à propos de son compatriote : « Il a des problèmes psychologiques. Il est resté longtemps sans parler à personne, avec des pensées négatives. » Il n’est pas le seul, dans le hall de Roissy, à sembler accuser le coup. Un autre Afghan a été déposé à l’aéroport par des infirmiers hospitaliers, prenant de court les agents de l’OFII qui n’avaient pas été informés et ont dû se procurer un fauteuil roulant tandis que l’homme, apathique, laissait son regard se perdre dans le vide, immobile.

    Un Soudanais s’apprête aussi à embarquer. Son air triste intrigue deux Afghans qui veulent savoir ce qui l’accable. Salah Mohamed Yaya a 19 ans. Il dit que depuis des mois il n’a plus de traitement contre le VIH. Cela fait deux ans qu’il est en France, passé par Toulouse, Paris, Nantes, les foyers pour mineurs, la rue, l’hôpital. « Je suis devenu fou, dit-il. Je veux retourner au bled. » Salah n’a pas fait de demande d’asile, sans que l’on sache s’il a vraiment été informé qu’il pouvait le faire. La veille de son départ, il a dormi porte de Villette. Il sent encore le feu de bois.


    #retour_au_pays #réfugiés_afghans #France #Afghanistan #asile #migrations #réfugiés

  • Cartographie | Dix ans dans la vie de deux enfants sur les routes de l’exil

    Comment voyagent les migrants quand nous leur refusons les visas ? Hani et Hassan sont originaires de Hérat en Afghanistan. Ils avaient 12 et 14 ans lorsque leur père, un chef de guerre, a décidé de les envoyer vers l’Europe pour qu’ils puissent étudier, et espérer un avenir « un peu plus calme » et intéressant. Puisqu’il […]

  • A #Lesbos, la dignité perdue des migrants afghans dans le camp de Moria - Asialyst

    uir la guerre en Afghanistan, traverser mille morts et se retrouver parqués dans une île grecque. Et attendre. C’est le quotidien des migrants afghans arrivés à Lesbos en Grêce. Ici, le camp de Moria abrite la majorité des 10 000 demandeurs d’asile résidant sur l’île. Marine Jeannin et Sarah Samya Anfis sont parvenues à entrer illégalement dans ce camp interdit aux journalistes par peur des reportages alarmistes. Elles ont trouvé une communauté afghane en proie à la violence, et qui ne reçoit plus ni soins, ni justice.

    #migrations #asile #grèce #camps #méditerranée cc @cdb_77

  • The Vulnerability Contest

    Traumatized Afghan child soldiers who were forced to fight in Syria struggle to find protection in Europe’s asylum lottery.

    Mosa did not choose to come forward. Word had spread among the thousands of asylum seekers huddled inside Moria that social workers were looking for lone children among the general population. High up on the hillside, in the Afghan area of the chaotic refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, some residents knew someone they suspected was still a minor. They led the aid workers to Mosa.

    The boy, whose broad and beardless face mark him out as a member of the Hazara ethnic group, had little reason to trust strangers. It was hard to persuade him just to sit with them and listen. Like many lone children, Mosa had slipped through the age assessment carried out on first arrival at Moria: He was registered as 27 years old. With the help of a translator, the social worker explained that there was still time to challenge his classification as an adult. But Mosa did not seem to be able to engage with what he was being told. It would take weeks to establish trust and reveal his real age and background.

    Most new arrivals experience shock when their hopes of a new life in Europe collide with Moria, the refugee camp most synonymous with the miserable consequences of Europe’s efforts to contain the flow of refugees and migrants across the Aegean. When it was built, the camp was meant to provide temporary shelter for fewer than 2,000 people. Since the European Union struck a deal in March 2016 with Turkey under which new arrivals are confined to Greece’s islands, Moria’s population has swollen to 9,000. It has become notorious for overcrowding, snowbound tents, freezing winter deaths, violent protests and suicides by adults and children alike.

    While all asylum systems are subjective, he said that the situation on Greece’s islands has turned the search for protection into a “lottery.”

    Stathis Poularakis is a lawyer who previously served for two years on an appeal committee dealing with asylum cases in Greece and has worked extensively on Lesbos. While all asylum systems are subjective, he said that the situation on Greece’s islands has turned the search for protection into a “lottery.”

    Asylum claims on Lesbos can take anywhere between six months and more than two years to be resolved. In the second quarter of 2018, Greece faced nearly four times as many asylum claims per capita as Germany. The E.U. has responded by increasing the presence of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and broadening its remit so that EASO officials can conduct asylum interviews. But the promises that EASO will bring Dutch-style efficiency conceal the fact that the vast majority of its hires are not seconded from other member states but drawn from the same pool of Greeks as the national asylum service.

    Asylum caseworkers at Moria face an overwhelming backlog and plummeting morale. A serving EASO official describes extraordinary “pressure to go faster” and said there was “so much subjectivity in the system.” The official also said that it was human nature to reject more claims “when you see every other country is closing its borders.”

    Meanwhile, the only way to escape Moria while your claim is being processed is to be recognized as a “vulnerable” case. Vulnerables get permission to move to the mainland or to more humane accommodation elsewhere on the island. The term is elastic and can apply to lone children and women, families or severely physically or mentally ill people. In all cases the onus is on the asylum seeker ultimately to persuade the asylum service, Greek doctors or the United Nations Refugee Agency that they are especially vulnerable.

    The ensuing scramble to get out of Moria has turned the camp into a vast “vulnerability contest,” said Poularakis. It is a ruthless competition that the most heavily traumatized are often in no condition to understand, let alone win.

    Twice a Refugee

    Mosa arrived at Moria in October 2017 and spent his first night in Europe sleeping rough outside the arrivals tent. While he slept someone stole his phone. When he awoke he was more worried about the lost phone than disputing the decision of the Frontex officer who registered him as an adult. Poularakis said age assessors are on the lookout for adults claiming to be children, but “if you say you’re an adult, no one is going to object.”

    Being a child has never afforded Mosa any protection in the past: He did not understand that his entire future could be at stake. Smugglers often warn refugee children not to reveal their real age, telling them that they will be prevented from traveling further if they do not pretend to be over 18 years old.

    Like many other Hazara of his generation, Mosa was born in Iran, the child of refugees who fled Afghanistan. Sometimes called “the cursed people,” the Hazara are followers of Shia Islam and an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan, a country whose wars are usually won by larger ethnic groups and followers of Sunni Islam. Their ancestry, traced by some historians to Genghis Khan, also means they are highly visible and have been targets for persecution by Afghan warlords from 19th-century Pashtun kings to today’s Taliban.

    In recent decades, millions of Hazara have fled Afghanistan, many of them to Iran, where their language, Dari, is a dialect of Persian Farsi, the country’s main language.

    “We had a life where we went from work to home, which were both underground in a basement,” he said. “There was nothing (for us) like strolling the streets. I was trying not to be seen by anyone. I ran from the police like I would from a street dog.”

    Iran hosts 950,000 Afghan refugees who are registered with the U.N. and another 1.5 million undocumented Afghans. There are no official refugee camps, making displaced Afghans one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world. For those without the money to pay bribes, there is no route to permanent residency or citizenship. Most refugees survive without papers on the outskirts of cities such as the capital, Tehran. Those who received permits, before Iran stopped issuing them altogether in 2007, must renew them annually. The charges are unpredictable and high. Mostly, the Afghan Hazara survive as an underclass, providing cheap labor in workshops and constructions sites. This was how Mosa grew up.

    “We had a life where we went from work to home, which were both underground in a basement,” he said. “There was nothing (for us) like strolling the streets. I was trying not to be seen by anyone. I ran from the police like I would from a street dog.”

    But he could not remain invisible forever and one day in October 2016, on his way home from work, he was detained by police for not having papers.

    Sitting in one of the cantinas opposite the entrance to Moria, Mosa haltingly explained what happened next. How he was threatened with prison in Iran or deportation to Afghanistan, a country in which he has never set foot. How he was told that that the only way out was to agree to fight in Syria – for which they would pay him and reward him with legal residence in Iran.

    “In Iran, you have to pay for papers,” said Mosa. “If you don’t pay, you don’t have papers. I do not know Afghanistan. I did not have a choice.”

    As he talked, Mosa spread out a sheaf of papers from a battered plastic wallet. Along with asylum documents was a small notepad decorated with pink and mauve elephants where he keeps the phone numbers of friends and family. It also contains a passport-sized green booklet with the crest of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a temporary residence permit. Inside its shiny cover is the photograph of a scared-looking boy, whom the document claims was born 27 years ago. It is the only I.D. he has ever owned and the date of birth has been faked to hide the fact that the country that issues it has been sending children to war.

    Mosa is not alone among the Hazara boys who have arrived in Greece seeking protection, carrying identification papers with inflated ages. Refugees Deeply has documented the cases of three Hazara child soldiers and corroborated their accounts with testimony from two other underage survivors. Their stories are of childhoods twice denied: once in Syria, where they were forced to fight, and then again after fleeing to Europe, where they are caught up in a system more focused on hard borders than on identifying the most damaged and vulnerable refugees.

    From Teenage Kicks to Adult Nightmares

    Karim’s descent into hell began with a prank. Together with a couple of friends, he recorded an angsty song riffing on growing up as a Hazara teenager in Tehran. Made when he was 16 years old, the song was meant to be funny. His band did not even have a name. The boys uploaded the track on a local file-sharing platform in 2014 and were as surprised as anyone when it was downloaded thousands of times. But after the surprise came a creeping sense of fear. Undocumented Afghan refugee families living in Tehran usually try to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Karim tried to have the song deleted, but after two months there was a knock on the door. It was the police.

    “I asked them how they found me,” he said. “I had no documents but they knew where I lived.”

    Already estranged from his family, the teenager was transported from his life of working in a pharmacy and staying with friends to life in a prison outside the capital. After two weeks inside, he was given three choices: to serve a five-year sentence; to be deported to Afghanistan; or to redeem himself by joining the Fatemiyoun.

    According to Iranian propaganda, the Fatemiyoun are Afghan volunteers deployed to Syria to protect the tomb of Zainab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad. In reality, the Fatemiyoun Brigade is a unit of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, drawn overwhelmingly from Hazara communities, and it has fought in Iraq and Yemen, as well as Syria. Some estimates put its full strength at 15,000, which would make it the second-largest foreign force in support of the Assad regime, behind the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah.

    Karim was told he would be paid and given a one-year residence permit during leave back in Iran. Conscripts are promised that if they are “martyred,” their family will receive a pension and permanent status. “I wasn’t going to Afghanistan and I wasn’t going to prison,” said Karim. So he found himself forced to serve in the #Fatemiyoun.

    His first taste of the new life came when he was transferred to a training base outside Tehran, where the recruits, including other children, were given basic weapons training and religious indoctrination. They marched, crawled and prayed under the brigade’s yellow flag with a green arch, crossed by assault rifles and a Koranic phrase: “With the Help of God.”

    “Imagine me at 16,” said Karim. “I have no idea how to kill a bird. They got us to slaughter animals to get us ready. First, they prepare your brain to kill.”

    The 16-year-old’s first deployment was to Mosul in Iraq, where he served four months. When he was given leave back in Iran, Karim was told that to qualify for his residence permit he would need to serve a second term, this time in Syria. They were first sent into the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Raqqa. Because of his age and physique, Karim and some of the other underage soldiers were moved to the medical corps. He said that there were boys as young as 14 and he remembers a 15-year-old who fought using a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

    “One prisoner was killed by being hung by his hair from a tree. They cut off his fingers one by one and cauterized the wounds with gunpowder.”

    “I knew nothing about Syria. I was just trying to survive. They were making us hate ISIS, dehumanizing them. Telling us not to leave one of them alive.” Since media reports revealed the existence of the Fatemiyoun, the brigade has set up a page on Facebook. Among pictures of “proud volunteers,” it shows stories of captured ISIS prisoners being fed and cared for. Karim recalls a different story.

    “One prisoner was killed by being hung by his hair from a tree. They cut off his fingers one by one and cauterized the wounds with gunpowder.”

    The casualties on both sides were overwhelming. At the al-Razi hospital in Aleppo, the young medic saw the morgue overwhelmed with bodies being stored two or three to a compartment. Despite promises to reward the families of martyrs, Karim said many of the bodies were not sent back to Iran.

    Mosa’s basic training passed in a blur. A shy boy whose parents had divorced when he was young and whose father became an opium addict, he had always shrunk from violence. He never wanted to touch the toy guns that other boys played with. Now he was being taught to break down, clean and fire an assault rifle.

    The trainees were taken three times a day to the imam, who preached to them about their holy duty and the iniquities of ISIS, often referred to as Daesh.

    “They told us that Daesh was the same but worse than the Taliban,” said Mosa. “I didn’t listen to them. I didn’t go to Syria by choice. They forced me to. I just needed the paper.”

    Mosa was born in 2001. Before being deployed to Syria, the recruits were given I.D. tags and papers that deliberately overstated their age: In 2017, Human Rights Watch released photographs of the tombstones of eight Afghan children who had died in Syria and whose families identified them as having been under 18 years old. The clerk who filled out Mosa’s forms did not trouble himself with complex math: He just changed 2001 to 1991. Mosa was one of four underage soldiers in his group. The boys were scared – their hands shook so hard they kept dropping their weapons. Two of them were dead within days of reaching the front lines.

    “I didn’t even know where we were exactly, somewhere in the mountains in a foreign country. I was scared all the time. Every time I saw a friend dying in front of my eyes I was thinking I would be next,” said Mosa.

    He has flashbacks of a friend who died next to him after being shot in the face by a sniper. After the incident, he could not sleep for four nights. The worst, he said, were the sudden raids by ISIS when they would capture Fatemiyoun fighters: “God knows what happened to them.”

    Iran does not release figures on the number of Fatemiyoun casualties. In a rare interview earlier this year, a senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard suggested as many as 1,500 Fatemiyoun had been killed in Syria. In Mashhad, an Iranian city near the border with Afghanistan where the brigade was first recruited, video footage has emerged of families demanding the bodies of their young men believed to have died in Syria. Mosa recalls patrols in Syria where 150 men and boys would go out and only 120 would return.

    Escaping Syria

    Abbas had two weeks left in Syria before going back to Iran on leave. After 10 weeks in what he describes as a “living hell,” he had begun to believe he might make it out alive. It was his second stint in Syria and, still only 17 years old, he had been chosen to be a paramedic, riding in the back of a 2008 Chevrolet truck converted into a makeshift ambulance.

    He remembers thinking that the ambulance and the hospital would have to be better than the bitter cold of the front line. His abiding memory from then was the sound of incoming 120mm shells. “They had a special voice,” Abbas said. “And when you hear it, you must lie down.”

    Following 15 days of nursing training, during which he was taught how to find a vein and administer injections, he was now an ambulance man, collecting the dead and wounded from the battlefields on which the Fatemiyoun were fighting ISIS.

    Abbas grew up in Ghazni in Afghanistan, but his childhood ended when his father died from cancer in 2013. Now the provider for the family, he traveled with smugglers across the border into Iran, to work for a tailor in Tehran who had known his father. He worked without documents and faced the same threats as the undocumented Hazara children born in Iran. Even more dangerous were the few attempts he made to return to Ghazni. The third time he attempted to hop the border he was captured by Iranian police.

    Abbas was packed onto a transport, along with 23 other children, and sent to Ordugah-i Muhaceran, a camplike detention center outside Mashhad. When they got there the Shia Hazara boys were separated from Sunni Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, who were pushed back across the border. Abbas was given the same choice as Karim and Mosa before him: Afghanistan or Syria. Many of the other forced recruits Abbas met in training, and later fought alongside in Syria, were addicts with a history of substance abuse.

    Testimony from three Fatemiyoun child soldiers confirmed that Tramadol was routinely used by recruits to deaden their senses, leaving them “feeling nothing” even in combat situations but, nonetheless, able to stay awake for days at a time.

    The Fatemiyoun officers dealt with withdrawal symptoms by handing out Tramadol, an opioid painkiller that is used to treat back pain but sometimes abused as a cheap alternative to methadone. The drug is a slow-release analgesic. Testimony from three Fatemiyoun child soldiers confirmed that it was routinely used by recruits to deaden their senses, leaving them “feeling nothing” even in combat situations but, nonetheless, able to stay awake for days at a time. One of the children reiterated that the painkiller meant he felt nothing. Users describe feeling intensely thirsty but say they avoid drinking water because it triggers serious nausea and vomiting. Tramadol is addictive and prolonged use can lead to insomnia and seizures.

    Life in the ambulance had not met Abbas’ expectations. He was still sent to the front line, only now it was to collect the dead and mutilated. Some soldiers shot themselves in the feet to escape the conflict.

    “We picked up people with no feet and no hands. Some of them were my friends,” Abbas said. “One man was in small, small pieces. We collected body parts I could not recognize and I didn’t know if they were Syrian or Iranian or Afghan. We just put them in bags.”

    Abbas did not make it to the 12th week. One morning, driving along a rubble-strewn road, his ambulance collided with an anti-tank mine. Abbas’ last memory of Syria is seeing the back doors of the vehicle blasted outward as he was thrown onto the road.

    When he awoke he was in a hospital bed in Iran. He would later learn that the Syrian ambulance driver had been killed and that the other Afghan medic in the vehicle had lost both his legs. At the time, his only thought was to escape.

    The Toll on Child Soldiers

    Alice Roorda first came into contact with child soldiers in 2001 in the refugee camps of Sierra Leone in West Africa. A child psychologist, she was sent there by the United Kingdom-based charity War Child. She was one of three psychologists for a camp of more than 5,000 heavily traumatized survivors of one of West Africa’s more brutal conflicts.

    “There was almost nothing we could do,” she admitted.

    The experience, together with later work in Uganda, has given her a deep grounding in the effects of war and post-conflict trauma on children. She said prolonged exposure to conflict zones has physical as well as psychological effects.

    “If you are chronically stressed, as in a war zone, you have consistently high levels of the two basic stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.”

    Even after reaching a calmer situation, the “stress baseline” remains high, she said. This impacts everything from the immune system to bowel movements. Veterans often suffer from complications related to the continual engagement of the psoas, or “fear muscle” – the deepest muscles in the body’s core, which connect the spine, through the pelvis, to the femurs.

    “With prolonged stress you start to see the world around you as more dangerous.” The medial prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain that interprets threat levels, is also affected, said Roorda. This part of the brain is sometimes called the “watchtower.”

    “When your watchtower isn’t functioning well you see everything as more dangerous. You are on high alert. This is not a conscious response; it is because the stress is already so close to the surface.”

    Psychological conditions that can be expected to develop include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Left untreated, these stress levels can lead to physical symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME) to high blood pressure or irritable bowel syndrome. Also common are heightened sensitivity to noise and insomnia.

    The trauma of war can also leave children frozen at the point when they were traumatized. “Their life is organized as if the trauma is still ongoing,” said Roorda. “It is difficult for them to take care of themselves, to make rational well informed choices, and to trust people.”

    The starting point for any treatment of child soldiers, said Roorda, is a calm environment. They need to release the tension with support groups and physical therapy, she said, and “a normal bedtime.”

    The Dutch psychologist, who is now based in Athens, acknowledged that what she is describing is the exact opposite of the conditions at #Moria.


    Karim is convinced that his facility for English has saved his life. While most Hazara boys arrive in Europe speaking only Farsi, Karim had taught himself some basic English before reaching Greece. As a boy in Tehran he had spent hours every day trying to pick up words and phrases from movies that he watched with subtitles on his phone. His favorite was The Godfather, which he said he must have seen 25 times. He now calls English his “safe zone” and said he prefers it to Farsi.

    When Karim reached Greece in March 2016, new arrivals were not yet confined to the islands. No one asked him if he was a child or an adult. He paid smugglers to help him escape Iran while on leave from Syria and after crossing through Turkey landed on Chios. Within a day and a half, he had passed through the port of Piraeus and reached Greece’s northern border with Macedonia, at Idomeni.

    When he realized the border was closed, he talked to some of the international aid workers who had come to help at the makeshift encampment where tens of thousands of refugees and migrants waited for a border that would not reopen. They ended up hiring him as a translator. Two years on, his English is now much improved and Karim has worked for a string of international NGOs and a branch of the Greek armed forces, where he was helped to successfully apply for asylum.

    The same job has also brought him to Moria. He earns an above-average salary for Greece and at first he said that his work on Lesbos is positive: “I’m not the only one who has a shitty background. It balances my mind to know that I’m not the only one.”

    But then he admits that it is difficult hearing and interpreting versions of his own life story from Afghan asylum seekers every day at work. He has had problems with depression and suffered flashbacks, “even though I’m in a safe country now.”

    Abbas got the help he needed to win the vulnerability contest. After he was initially registered as an adult, his age assessment was overturned and he was transferred from Moria to a shelter for children on Lesbos. He has since been moved again to a shelter in mainland Greece. While he waits to hear the decision on his protection status, Abbas – like other asylum seekers in Greece – receives 150 euros ($170) a month. This amount needs to cover all his expenses, from food and clothing to phone credit. The money is not enough to cover a regular course of the antidepressant Prozac and the sleeping pills he was prescribed by the psychiatrist he was able to see on Lesbos.

    “I save them for when it gets really bad,” he said.

    Since moving to the mainland he has been hospitalized once with convulsions, but his main worry is the pain in his groin. Abbas underwent a hernia operation in Iran, the result of injuries sustained as a child lifting adult bodies into the ambulance. He has been told that he will need to wait for four months to see a doctor in Greece who can tell him if he needs another operation.

    “I would like to go back to school,” he said. But in reality, Abbas knows that he will need to work and there is little future for an Afghan boy who can no longer lift heavy weights.

    Walking into an Afghan restaurant in downtown Athens – near Victoria Square, where the people smugglers do business – Abbas is thrilled to see Farsi singers performing on the television above the door. “I haven’t been in an Afghan restaurant for maybe three years,” he said to explain his excitement. His face brightens again when he catches sight of Ghormeh sabzi, a herb stew popular in Afghanistan and Iran that reminds him of his mother. “I miss being with them,” he said, “being among my family.”

    When the dish arrives he pauses before eating, taking out his phone and carefully photographing the plate from every angle.

    Mosa is about to mark the end of a full year in Moria. He remains in the same drab tent that reminds him every day of Syria. Serious weight loss has made his long limbs – the ones that made it easier for adults to pretend he was not a child – almost comically thin. His skin is laced with scars, but he refuses to go into detail about how he got them. Mosa has now turned 18 and seems to realize that his best chance of getting help may have gone.

    “Those people who don’t have problems, they give them vulnerability (status),” he said with evident anger. “If you tell them the truth, they don’t help you.”

    Then he apologises for the flash of temper. “I get upset and angry and my body shakes,” he said.

    Mosa explained that now when he gets angry he has learned to remove himself: “Sometimes I stuff my ears with toilet paper to make it quiet.”

    It is 10 months since Mosa had his asylum interview. The questions he expected about his time in the Fatemiyoun never came up. Instead, the interviewers asked him why he had not stayed in Turkey after reaching that country, having run away while on leave in Iran.

    The questions they did ask him point to his likely rejection and deportation. Why, he was asked, was his fear of being persecuted in Afghanistan credible? He told them that he has heard from other Afghan boys that police and security services in the capital, Kabul, were arresting ex-combatants from Syria.

    Like teenagers everywhere, many of the younger Fatemiyoun conscripts took selfies in Syria and posted them on Facebook or shared them on WhatsApp. The images, which include uniforms and insignia, can make him a target for Sunni reprisals. These pictures now haunt him as much as the faces of his dead comrades.

    Meanwhile, the fate he suffered two tours in Syria to avoid now seems to be the most that Europe can offer him. Without any of his earlier anger, he said, “I prefer to kill myself here than go to Afghanistan.”

    #enfants-soldats #syrie #réfugiés #asile #migrations #guerre #conflit #réfugiés_afghans #Afghanistan #ISIS #EI #Etat_islamique #trauma #traumatisme #vulnérabilité

    ping @isskein

  • Pakistan PM to Offer Citizenship to Afghans Born in #Pakistan

    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an unprecedented announcement Sunday, pledged to offer Pakistani citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Afghans born to refugee families his country has been hosting for decades.

    The United Nations refugee agency and local officials say there are 2.7 million Afghans, including 1.5 million registered as refugees, in Pakistan. The displaced families have fled decades of conflict, ethnic and religious persecution, poverty and economic hardships in turmoil-hit Afghanistan.

    “Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world. You get an American passport if you are born in America,” said Khan, who took office last month.

    “Then why can’t we do it here. We continue to subject these people to unfair treatment,” the Pakistani prime minister said at a public event in the southern port city of Karachi Sunday night.

    U.N. surveys suggest that around 60 percent of Afghan refugees were either born in Pakistan or were minors when their parents migrated to Pakistan. War-shattered Afghanistan is therefore alien to most of these young people who are already part of the local economy in different ways.

    This group of refugees, officials say, are reluctant to go back to Afghanistan where security conditions have deteriorated in the wake of the stalemated war between U.S.-backed Afghan security forces and the Taliban insurgency.

    Khan noted in his nationally televised remarks that without Pakistani national identification cards and passports, the refugees have been unable to find decent legal jobs or get a quality education in local institutions.

    These people, the prime minister said, will eventually be forced to indulge in criminal activities, posing security issues for areas like Karachi, the country’s largest city and commercial hub. Afghans are a significant portion of the nearly 20 million residents in Karachi.

    “They are humans. How come we have deprived them and have not arranged for offering them national identification card and passport for 30 years, 40 years,” Khan lamented.

    The Pakistani leader explained that since he is also directly overseeing the federal Interior Ministry, which is responsible for granting passports and identification cards, he will instruct his staff to make efforts without further delay to offer Pakistani nationality to the people “who have come from Afghanistan and whose children are raised and born in here.”

    Khan spoke a day after his Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, visited Afghanistan, where he discussed among other issues the fate of the registered Afghan refugees who have until December 31, 2018, to stay in Pakistan legally.

    An official statement issued after Qureshi’s daylong trip to Kabul said that in his meetings with Afghan leaders, the foreign minister “underlined the need for dignified, sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland through a gradual and time-bound plan.”

    Pakistani authorities have lately complained that Taliban insurgents waging attacks inside Afghanistan have been using the refugee communities as hiding places. Both countries accuse each other of supporting militant attacks against their respective soils. The allegations are at the center of bilateral political tensions.

    In a meeting last week with visiting U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, Khan assured him that his government will not force Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan.

    #citoyenneté #naturalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_afghans

    ping @isskein

  • Après des décennies au Pakistan, des réfugiés afghans se préparent au retour en Afghanistan

    Le Pakistan cherche à rapatrier vers l’Afghanistan des réfugiés afghans parmi 1,6 million au total qui vivent dans le pays. Le HCR a réservé des fonds pour le rapatriement de 60 000 réfugiés.

    Des familles sont installées, silencieuses. De jeunes enfants se promènent entre les chaises. Ils vont rentrer chez eux en Afghanistan, alors que certains d’entre eux vivent au Pakistan depuis plusieurs décennies. Et ils rentreront chez eux à titre définitif.

    Ce sont des réfugiés afghans et la scène se déroule au Centre de rapatriement volontaire de Peshawar, qui est géré par le HCR, l’Agence des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés.

    Payenda Bibi Shahnaz est installée dans un fauteuil roulant. Son mari Shamamud dans un autre. Cela fait 33 ans qu’ils ont trouvé refuge au Pakistan, mais ils rentrent également en Afghanistan avec leurs deux fils qui s’occuperont d’eux.

    Le HCR les aidera également une fois qu’ils seront rentrés au pays.

    « Je n’ai simplement pas les moyens de payer le coût de mon traitement médical ici », explique-t-elle. « Nous n’avons pas le choix. »

    Le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés Filippo Grandi a eu l’occasion de faire leur connaissance aujourd’hui pendant sa visite au Centre et il leur a souhaité bonne chance. Le HCR apporte également une aide de 200 dollars aux rapatriés destinée à couvrir leurs dépenses initiales de voyage et de logement.

    Le gouvernement du Pakistan met en oeuvre une politique concertée de rapatriement pour beaucoup parmi presque un million de réfugiés qui vivent dans la région de Peshawar. Le HCR a réservé des fonds pour le rapatriement de 60 000 réfugiés.

    Mais depuis le début de l’année, le nombre de réfugiés qui a passé la frontière de manière définitive dépasse tout juste 6000 personnes.

    Pour nombre d’entre eux, le moment de rendre leur carte de réfugié au Pakistan est chargé d’émotions. Les élèves sont souvent en larmes, car ils se disent qu’ils ne reverront jamais leurs amis.

    La pression économique est ce qui les pousse le plus au retour.

    Qudsia a 40 ans et elle a quatre enfants. Elle était elle-même un enfant quand elle est arrivée au Pakistan. Et aujourd’hui son mari et elle ont décidé de rentrer.

    « Nous avons décidé de rentrer, parce que c’est très cher ici. Nous avons beaucoup de problèmes. Mon mari est diabétique et on ne trouve pas de travail ici. »

    Mais ils sont bien plus nombreux à décider de rester. Au cours de la ‘shura’, la réunion de la communauté, ils ont expliqué à Filippo Grandi qu’ils restent au Pakistan à cause des opportunités que le pays offre sur le plan de l’éducation et de l’économie. Ils ont également évoqué leur crainte de la violence qui règne dans leur pays. Quelque 31 des 34 provinces que compte l’Afghanistan ont été le théâtre de conflits ces derniers mois.

    La carte PoR (Proof of Registration) de Preuve d’enregistrement au Pakistan est également cause de souci majeur. Toutes ces cartes arrivent à échéance le 30 juin. Sans ces cartes, les réfugiés sont passibles d’arrestation, voire même d’expulsion. Filippo Grandi a confirmé qu’il avait instamment demandé au Pakistan de proroger la validité des cartes. La décision sera prise par l’exécutif du Pakistan.

    Filippo Grandi a expliqué aux réfugiés qu’il comprenait leurs craintes et leurs inquiétudes par rapport au fait que 200 dollars ne suffisent pas à se réinstaller dans un pays peu sûr.

    « J’ai entendu les participants de la Shura », a-t-il déclaré. « Nous allons très bientôt augmenter l’indemnité de rapatriement. Nous allons œuvrer pour améliorer les conditions de retour des rapatriés. J’en ai parlé avec les dirigeants du gouvernement afghan. »

    Il a parlé de sa rencontre avec le Président afghan Ashraf Ghani. Le Président lui a confirmé qu’il a demandé un inventaire des terrains disponibles appartenant au gouvernement. Il s’agirait de mettre en place un programme de réinstallation des réfugiés similaire au programme pilote de Hérat en faveur des personnes déplacées à l’intérieur du pays.

    Comme pour les personnes déplacées à Hérat, il s’agirait d’attribuer aux réfugiés des terrains à bâtir. L’eau et l’électricité seraient fournies.

    Filippo Grandi a aussi abordé les préoccupations des réfugiés qui craignent de servir de boucs émissaires après des attaques ou des incidents violents le long de la frontière pakistano-afghane.

    « J’ai bien entendu ce que vous dites. Les réfugiés ne sont pas des terroristes. Je suis tout à fait d’accord. »

    Il a déclaré qu’en s’adressant aux dirigeants du gouvernement du Pakistan, il avait souligné qu’on ne pouvait mettre en cause ou pénaliser toute la population de réfugiés quand de tels événements se produisaient.


    #Pakistan #réfugiés_afghans #Afghanistan #réfugiés #asile #migrations #retour_au_pays

    • Amid Mass Returns, a Teacher’s Hopes for Refugee Girls in Afghanistan

      As hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees return from Pakistan, we speak to Aqeela Asifi, a prize-winning educator of refugee girls in the country’s Punjab province, about how the mass returns will impact girls’ education and thus the future of Afghanistan.

      #filles #femmes #éducation

    • Facing problems in Pakistan, Afghans return home in droves

      For years, Afghans have fled the violence in their country, seeking asylum in Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East. But over the past year, about 600,000 Afghans have crossed the border back into Afghanistan, coming from Pakistan, Iran and Europe when they are denied asylum.


    • Afghans Returned from Pakistan Struggle on Kabul Career Ladder

      As hundreds of thousands of Afghans return from neighboring countries, young graduates face discrimination, language barriers and a dearth of connections in a country many had never been to before, Valerie Plesch reports for Al-Fanar Media.


    • Viaggio tra i rifugiati afghani respinti dal Pakistan

      Fin dagli anni ‘70 gli afghani fuggiti dal proprio paese hanno cercato rifugio in Pakistan. Tuttavia la loro situazione negli ultimi anni è diventata critica. Utilizzati per esercitare pressioni politiche su Kabul, subiscono continue pressione per far ritorno nel loro paese. A queste poi si sono aggiunte minacce e violenze crescenti. Una strategia che ha funzionato, come ci racconta Giuliano Battiston: migliaia sono i rifugiati tornati nel loro paese dove all’assenza di casa e lavoro fa da contraltare la presenza della guerra

      «A Peshawar avevo una mia bottega. Era piccola, ma andava bene. Vendevo zucchero, sale, olio, sapone. Non potevo lamentarmi. Ora eccomi qui, vendo meloni e angurie che compro da altri. Lo faccio da pochi giorni e non so per quanto ancora. Ma non mi basta per mandare avanti la famiglia».

      Rabihullah ha 45 anni e 12 figli. Nato in Afghanistan, fuggito dalla guerra, ha trascorso gran parte della vita in Pakistan, ma pochi mesi fa è stato costretto a tornare. Lo incontriamo all’inizio di una via sterrata che si dipana verso i campi coltivati, all’incrocio con la strada principale che conduce fuori città dal centro di Jalalabad, capoluogo di Nangarhar, provincia orientale al confine con il Pakistan. Seduto sulla paglia, alle spalle decine e decine di meloni profumati, in testa uno zuccotto chiaro, Rabihullah indossa un semplice vestito bianco, rattoppato qua e là. «Sono nato nel distretto di Bati Kut, qui nel Nangarhar. Ci siamo trasferiti in Pakistan quando ero adolescente. Di preciso non saprei quando. Ricordo che il mio primo digiuno per il Ramadan l’ho fatto lì. Non stavamo male a Peshawar. Ma 3 mesi fa siamo dovuti tornare. I poliziotti pachistani prima hanno cominciato a chiederci i documenti, poi a picchiarci. Ci attaccavano perfino di notte. Entravano nelle nostre case all’una, alle due del mattino. Ci dicevano di andar via. Nel nostro quartiere, che era come un villaggio, eravamo tutti afghani. Ci attaccavano per questo».

      La storia di Rabihullah è simile a quella di decine di migliaia di connazionali, costretti a rientrare in Afghanistan a causa delle politiche repressive del governo di Islamabad. Già nel 2015, Human Rights Watch denunciava «minacce ripetute, arresti frequenti, richieste regolari di mazzette, violenze occasionali da parte della polizia pachistana nei mesi successivi all’attacco alla scuola di Peshawar», l’attentato terroristico che il 16 dicembre 2014 ha provocato la morte di 145 persone, tra cui 134 bambini.

      Anche se l’attentato è stato rivendicato dai Talebani pachistani, per le autorità i responsabili andavano cercati all’interno dell’ampia comunità di rifugiati afghani che, sin dalla fine degli anni Settanta, hanno trovato protezione dalla guerra sull’altro lato della Durand Line, in Pakistan. Quei rifugiati erano parte della più ampia diaspora che ha reso l’Afghanistan per molti anni, fino allo scoppio della guerra siriana, il primo Paese al mondo di provenienza per numero di rifugiati. Una diaspora ancora oggi numerosa.

      Secondo i dati dell’ultimo rapporto dell’Alto Commissariato dell’Onu per i rifugiati (Unhcr), Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2017, nel mondo ci sono 2,6 milioni di rifugiati afghani, il 5% in più rispetto all’anno precedente. L’Afghanistan è il secondo paese di provenienza dei rifugiati dopo la Siria (6,3 milioni). La maggior parte vive in Pakistan (poco meno di 1,4 milioni) e in Iran (poco meno di 1 milione), ma i due Paesi ospitano anche un gran numero di emigrati privi di documenti, non registrati dalle Nazioni Unite (circa 1 milione in Pakistan, 1 milione e mezzo in Iran). «Nel corso degli ultimi 40 anni, dall’inizio della guerra in Afghanistan nel 1978, l’Iran e il Pakistan hanno ospitato il più alto numero di rifugiati afghani», ricorda la ricercatrice Jelena Bjelica, che incontriamo nell’ufficio di Kabul dell’Afghanistan Analysts Network, il più accreditato centro di ricerca del Paese.

      Molti sono tornati. Dal 2001, dal Pakistan sono rientrati ben 3,9 milioni di rifugiati afghani. Quanti non lo hanno fatto sono diventati armi diplomatiche nelle mani del governo di Islamabad, il cui establishment militare è accusato di alimentare il conflitto per ragioni strategiche. «I rifugiati vengono usati per esercitare pressioni politiche su Kabul. La prassi di non estendere la validità dei documenti di registrazione è uno degli strumenti più comuni», nota Jelena Bjelica.

      «Nel 2016 e in parte nel 2017, le autorità pachistane hanno esercitato molte pressioni sugli afghani affinché tornassero indietro» conferma il ricercatore indipendente Wali Mohammad Kandiwal, autore di diverse pubblicazioni sui processi migratori, che incontriamo a Jalalabad. Alle pressioni si sono aggiunte minacce e violenze crescenti, come testimoniato nel 2017 da un altro rapporto di Human Rights Watch. La strategia ha funzionato. Lo certificano i numeri. Tra gennaio 2016 e dicembre 2017, almeno 1,2 milioni di afghani sono rientrati dall’Iran e dal Pakistan. Nel 2017, 460.000 afghani senza documenti sono rientrati o sono stati deportati dall’Iran, 100.000 dal Pakistan e 7.000 da Paesi europei, a cui vanno aggiunti almeno altri 60.000 rifugiati registrati, tornati dal Pakistan. «Il loro è stato un vero dilemma: rimanere o tornare? Entrambe le opzioni erano rischiose. Chi è tornato, spesso non è convinto di aver fatto la scelta giusta», aggiunge Kandiwal.

      Anche Rabihullah non ne è certo. «Il lavoro non c’è, la casa costa troppo, non parliamo della sicurezza: qui si combatte dovunque», spiega sconfortato mentre ci guida lungo i viottoli del quartiere in cui vive, nella periferia di Jalalabad. Dietro un cancello di metallo c’è casa sua. Un atrio di pochi metri quadrati, delimitato da alte mura. Sulla destra, un ripiano di legno con una bombola del gas e qualche stoviglia: «è la cucina». Appena sopra, un filo con dei panni stesi. Una porta blu spicca contro il marrone delle pareti di fango. «Come vedi, la casa è fatta di un’unica stanza». C’è un’unica finestra e, di fronte all’entrata, un letto di corde intrecciate con la base in legno, tipico di queste parti. Una scala in bambù raggiunge il tetto della stanza, dove sono stesi altri panni. «È tutto qui», dice guardandosi intorno e lamentando la scarsa assistenza del governo, inefficiente e corrotto. «Le risorse ci sono, ma vengono dirottate su progetti privati, sottratte, rubate», ci dice un funzionario della sede locale dell’Organizzazione internazionale per le migrazioni (Oim), che chiede l’anonimato.

      Non si tratta soltanto di denaro. La risorsa più importante, qui, è la casa. Meglio ancora, la terra. Secondo il «Policy Framework on IDPs and Returnees» del governo, «l’assegnazione della terra sarà un contributo fondamentale nel successo di soluzione durature» per i rifugiati. Ma la realtà è diversa. «Il piano governativo è molto ambizioso, e i politici non fanno mai mancare promesse elettorali su questo tema. Ma l’assegnazione delle terre è uno dei processi più corrotti che ci siano», nota Jelena Bjelica, che sull’argomento ha scritto un articolo molto informato.

      Lo conferma Wali Mohammad Kandiwal, che ci anticipa i risultati della sua ultima ricerca, promossa dal Feinstein International Center dell’Università statunitense di Tufts. Si intitola «Homeland, but no land for home. A Case Study of Refugees in Towns: Jalalabad» e l’autore la sintetizza così: «la terra è il problema principale soprattutto qui, nella provincia di Nangarhar. Il governo punta a far tornare gli emigrati, ma non riesce a soddisfarne i bisogni e le legittime richieste. La burocrazia e soprattutto la corruzione sull’assegnazione delle terre rendono l’intero sistema dell’accoglienza del tutto fallimentare».

      Alla corruzione e all’inefficienza del governo si sommano altri ostacoli. Il primo è il costo della terra, il bene più ambito. Secondo i dati riportati dallo Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), l’organo di controllo che riferisce al Congresso degli Stati Uniti sui soldi pubblici spesi nel Paese centro-asiatico, dal 2001 il costo della terra è aumentato del 1.000%. Un aumento ancora più significativo si registra nella provincia di Nangarhar, a causa delle speculazioni legate al rientro dei profughi dal Pakistan, delle mafie locali, delle dispute sui terreni e del landgrabbing.

      C’è poi il problema strutturale dell’enorme peso demografico, sociale ed economico delle migrazioni forzate. Secondo una recente ricerca coordinata dall’Oim, in 15 delle 34 province afghane con la maggiore mobilità transfrontaliera e interna, tra il 2012 e il 2017 più di 3,5 milioni di persone sono ritornate dall’estero o sono state costrette a lasciare la propria casa, per trasferirsi in altre zone del paese. Tra coloro che sono rientrati in patria, 1 milione e 355 mila provenivano dal Pakistan, 398 mila dall’Iran. Il 25% di tutti i returnees si sono stabiliti proprio nella provincia di Nangarhar, che ha registrato 499,194 nuovi arrivi – ufficiali – tra il 2012 e il 2017.

      Tra questi c’è Hejrat, 33 anni, carnagione scura, occhi celesti e un sorriso rassicurante. «Siamo tornati nel giugno 2017. Era un periodo in cui tante famiglie decidevano di tornare indietro», racconta. «Sono nato in Pakistan, ma la mia famiglia è originaria del distretto di Rodat, non distante da Jalalabad». Hejrat ha vissuto a lungo in Pakistan, a Peshawar, prima di essere costretto a tornare: «per i pachistani, gli afghani sono un fastidio. Abbiamo sopportato a lungo, poi siamo partiti». Per farlo ha dovuto chiedere un prestito: «I miei genitori erano già tornati. Ho chiesto un prestito di 10.000 rupie pachistane (circa 70 euro, ndr), ho fatto i bagagli e sono partito. Eravamo 5 persone, tutta la mia famiglia. Al confine, l’Onu ci ha dato una tenda, 100 chili di farina e 3 coperte. Ora eccoci qui». Hejrat sostiene che l’assistenza ricevuta sia insufficiente. «Abbiamo bisogno di tutto: cibo, lavoro, soldi. Con i soldi potrei cominciare un’attività e restituire quel che devo. Ho ancora debiti da pagare in Pakistan».

      Hejrat è tornato in Afghanistan nel giugno 2017, quando la morsa delle autorità pachistane cominciava ad allentarsi. «In quel periodo le autorità hanno prolungato la validità dei documenti degli afghani e il ministero afghano per i Rifugiati ha trovato un accordo con la controparte a Islamabad», ricorda Kandiwal. Nel 2018, la pressione è ulteriormente diminuita. Eppure, i rientri dal Pakistan continuano, così come gli abusi. Da gennaio a oggi, secondo l’Oim circa 23.000 afghani senza documenti sono tornati in Afghanistan dal Pakistan (mentre sono circa 510.000 quelli rientrati dall’Iran, a causa delle crescenti pressioni delle autorità iraniane e della svalutazione del rial). «Siamo tornati da 5 mesi», racconta Hakim, 25 anni. «Siamo stati costretti ad andarcene. I poliziotti ci picchiavano ogni giorno con i bastoni, ci perseguitavano, continuavano a crearci problemi. Quando hanno esagerato, abbiamo deciso di partire. Molta gente ha preso la nostra stessa decisione».

      Hakim si considera afghano, ma è nato in Pakistan. «Sono nato vicino a Peshawar, nel campo (rifugiati, ndr) di Akora. Poi siamo finiti a vivere su Charsadda road, fuori dai campi, con altre famiglie afghane. La mia famiglia si è trasferita in Pakistan 35 anni fa a causa della guerra». La guerra continua ancora oggi, ma Hakim – pur non essendoci mai vissuto – è tornato nella patria dei genitori. «Non era più possibile vivere a Peshawar: troppi problemi».

      Anche qui non mancano. «In Pakistan facevo il lavoratore a giornata, lo stesso provo a fare qui. Ma è più difficile. Ho provato ad andare a Kabul, ma non ho trovato niente. Vivo con mia madre e mio padre, con mia moglie e i miei 5 figli. In tutto, siamo 8 persone». Hakim ci mostra casa, una tenda di plastica marrone, fornita dal Norwegian Refugee Council. Il tetto è in lamiera, le pareti in plastica e tela. Sopra l’ingresso svetta una bandiera afghana. Sui lati, una stampella di fil di ferro sorregge un vassoio di metallo con qualche utensile. Un intricato giro di fili porta l’elettricità. «Ma va e viene». All’interno, diversi materassi, arrotolati per risparmiare spazio, un peluche spelacchiato e qualche pentola. La tenda si trova in un ampio parcheggio sterrato, per gran parte occupato da ferraglia e calcinacci. Dietro la tenda c’è un palazzo in costruzione, lasciato a metà. Accanto, un’altra tenda, più bassa e più piccola.

      Qualche metro più in là, un orticello di due metri per due. Pomodori, melanzane e poco altro. Hakim vorrebbe tornare nel villaggio dei genitori, nel distretto di Bati Kut, ma non può: «lì c’è la guerra».


    • Coming home to conflict: Why Afghan returnees say they were better off as refugees

      Life as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan was never easy for Halima Bibi. But living in her own country has been even harder.

      Bibi, 60, is among more than 3.8 million refugee and undocumented Afghans who have returned to Afghanistan – by choice or by force – over the last five years. In 2016, after spending their entire lives as refugees, she and her three children were driven over the border on the back of a truck – one family among hundreds of thousands of Afghans pushed out of Pakistan that year in a refugee crackdown.

      Today, she lives in a small brick house in Bela, a village hosting around 1,500 returnee families outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. None of her three children have jobs, and Bibi worries about her health: she hasn’t been able to find a clinic to treat complications from her leprosy.

      “Life’s much more difficult here,” she said, sitting on the steps outside her concrete home, tears rolling down her wrinkled cheeks. “All of our extended family is in Pakistan and we struggle to survive.”

      Bibi’s troubles are common among Afghans coming home to a country at war after decades away, but data showing how returnees are faring has been scarce. Now, new research tracking Afghan returnees is painting a clearer picture of what people like Bibi are going through as authorities and aid groups prepare for more returns.

      A study released in July by the World Bank and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found that most returnees are worse off financially than those who had stayed behind in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed thousands of Afghans who returned between 2014 and 2017 – a period that saw both a sharp rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and mounting pressure on Afghan refugees living on the margins in Pakistan.

      The study found returnees face significantly higher unemployment, resorted to more precarious or unstable jobs like day labouring, and earned lower wages than they did back in Pakistan. They were also more likely to be unemployed or racking up debt compared with Afghans who never left the country.

      The research comes at a critical period for the government and aid groups in Afghanistan. UN agencies are forecasting that at least 680,000 refugees and undocumented migrants will return from Pakistan and Iran this year. But there are few jobs available and little help to reintegrate in a country in crisis.

      A record 3,800 people were killed in conflict last year, and hundreds of thousands were displaced by clashes or by disasters. Afghanistan is heading toward presidential elections in late September, yet insurgent attacks and military operations continue to kill civilians.

      The study’s proponents say the new data can be used to better understand returnees’ humanitarian needs, to shape more targeted aid and development responses – and to prepare for the next wave of returns and displacement.
      War and migration in Afghanistan

      With their country at war for the past four decades, millions of Afghans have been pushed out by both insecurity and a struggling economy. The UNHCR says the global Afghan refugee population – which includes some 2.7 million registered refugees and millions more undocumented – is the second-largest in the world.

      For decades, neighbouring Pakistan and Iran have hosted the majority of these refugees. But returns have surged over the last five years, driven by volatile public sentiment against refugees, geopolitical manoeuvring – Pakistan has previously threatened new rounds of deportation after political tussles with Afghanistan’s main backer, the United States – or economic crises.

      Some Afghans choose to come home, taking advantage of voluntary return programmes that supply cash grants to registered refugees. Other undocumented Afghans are fleeing sporadic police crackdowns in Pakistan. The majority of recent returnees are from Iran, where an economic crisis has driven Afghans out in droves.

      But there are few services for returning refugees and migrants. At Afghanistan’s four main border crossings with Pakistan and Iran, returning refugees are registered and the most vulnerable – unaccompanied children and single women – receive short-term assistance like food, clothing, and onward transport. But most of this assistance is short-lived, and migration flows are difficult to track once people have entered the country.

      Hafizullah Safi, 50, returned to Afghanistan four years ago along with his wife and 10 children. His family had never set foot in Afghanistan. His last visit was 35 years ago.

      Originally from the eastern province of Kunar, a lush rural area with one of Afghanistan’s few remaining forests, Safi decided to settle in Kabul instead – further from the war’s front lines, he said, and closer to schools and hospitals.

      But adjusting to his new life has been difficult. He rents a two-room mud home in Kabul’s city centre, but he struggles to pay the monthly rent of 5,000 afghanis, or about $60.

      “In Pakistan, I owned a small shop selling dried fruit, but here in Kabul I can barely keep my job as a taxi driver,” he said.

      Outside his house, a garbage-filled river breeds mosquitoes and smells of faeces. The roads are unpaved and electricity is scarce, if available at all. His son, a university graduate with a business degree, has been looking for a job since finishing his studies.

      Safi said there’s little to no assistance from both the government and aid groups. Four years after leaving, the family survives on money sent from relatives still in Pakistan.

      High expectations

      Rights groups say Afghanistan has failed to implement large-scale land programmes for refugees. Government policy aims to include returnees and displaced communities within the country’s development programmes, but the conflict itself makes progress difficult for all Afghans.

      “Returnees often have high expectations and it doesn’t line up with what we can provide,” said Abdul Basit Ansari, a spokesman at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, which oversees programmes for returnees and the displaced. “Both security and employment continue to be big challenges – not only for those who return, but for Afghans across the country.”

      The return to Afghanistan has been difficult for Safi and his family, but he said some aspects are better, compared with living an undocumented existence in Pakistan.

      “We were never fully integrated. We always lived in fear of being found out,” he said. “Afghanistan might be dangerous, but in some ways it is safer. This is our home. We are free here.”

      Still, in a crisis marked by precarious returns and long-lasting displacement, many Afghans are looking to leave.

      At Pakistan’s embassies and consulates across Afghanistan, more than 5,000 visa applications are made daily, according to Pakistan’s ambassador, with many people waiting in line for days.

      The Pakistan-Afghanistan border has traditionally been porous, but Safi said regulations have toughened in recent years: “We now need passports and visas to cross the border,” he said. “These are expensive and hard to come by.”

      If it wasn’t for paperwork, he admitted, his family would have returned to Pakistan long ago. Instead, he’s eyeing other migration opportunities for his university-educated but jobless son.

      “Pakistan is becoming less of an option,” he said. “My son is now trying to go to Europe instead.”



    • Coming home to conflict: Why Afghan returnees say they were better off as refugees

      Life as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan was never easy for Halima Bibi. But living in her own country has been even harder.

      Bibi, 60, is among more than 3.8 million refugee and undocumented Afghans who have returned to Afghanistan – by choice or by force – over the last five years. In 2016, after spending their entire lives as refugees, she and her three children were driven over the border on the back of a truck – one family among hundreds of thousands of Afghans pushed out of Pakistan that year in a refugee crackdown.

      Today, she lives in a small brick house in Bela, a village hosting around 1,500 returnee families outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. None of her three children have jobs, and Bibi worries about her health: she hasn’t been able to find a clinic to treat complications from her leprosy.

      “Life’s much more difficult here,” she said, sitting on the steps outside her concrete home, tears rolling down her wrinkled cheeks. “All of our extended family is in Pakistan and we struggle to survive.”

      Bibi’s troubles are common among Afghans coming home to a country at war after decades away, but data showing how returnees are faring has been scarce. Now, new research tracking Afghan returnees is painting a clearer picture of what people like Bibi are going through as authorities and aid groups prepare for more returns.

      A study released in July by the World Bank and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found that most returnees are worse off financially than those who had stayed behind in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed thousands of Afghans who returned between 2014 and 2017 – a period that saw both a sharp rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and mounting pressure on Afghan refugees living on the margins in Pakistan.

      The study found returnees face significantly higher unemployment, resorted to more precarious or unstable jobs like day labouring, and earned lower wages than they did back in Pakistan. They were also more likely to be unemployed or racking up debt compared with Afghans who never left the country.

      The research comes at a critical period for the government and aid groups in Afghanistan. UN agencies are forecasting that at least 680,000 refugees and undocumented migrants will return from Pakistan and Iran this year. But there are few jobs available and little help to reintegrate in a country in crisis.

      A record 3,800 people were killed in conflict last year, and hundreds of thousands were displaced by clashes or by disasters. Afghanistan is heading toward presidential elections in late September, yet insurgent attacks and military operations continue to kill civilians.

      The study’s proponents say the new data can be used to better understand returnees’ humanitarian needs, to shape more targeted aid and development responses – and to prepare for the next wave of returns and displacement.
      War and migration in Afghanistan

      With their country at war for the past four decades, millions of Afghans have been pushed out by both insecurity and a struggling economy. The UNHCR says the global Afghan refugee population – which includes some 2.7 million registered refugees and millions more undocumented – is the second-largest in the world.

      For decades, neighbouring Pakistan and Iran have hosted the majority of these refugees. But returns have surged over the last five years, driven by volatile public sentiment against refugees, geopolitical manoeuvring – Pakistan has previously threatened new rounds of deportation after political tussles with Afghanistan’s main backer, the United States – or economic crises.

      Some Afghans choose to come home, taking advantage of voluntary return programmes that supply cash grants to registered refugees. Other undocumented Afghans are fleeing sporadic police crackdowns in Pakistan. The majority of recent returnees are from Iran, where an economic crisis has driven Afghans out in droves.

      But there are few services for returning refugees and migrants. At Afghanistan’s four main border crossings with Pakistan and Iran, returning refugees are registered and the most vulnerable – unaccompanied children and single women – receive short-term assistance like food, clothing, and onward transport. But most of this assistance is short-lived, and migration flows are difficult to track once people have entered the country.

      Hafizullah Safi, 50, returned to Afghanistan four years ago along with his wife and 10 children. His family had never set foot in Afghanistan. His last visit was 35 years ago.

      Originally from the eastern province of Kunar, a lush rural area with one of Afghanistan’s few remaining forests, Safi decided to settle in Kabul instead – further from the war’s front lines, he said, and closer to schools and hospitals.

      But adjusting to his new life has been difficult. He rents a two-room mud home in Kabul’s city centre, but he struggles to pay the monthly rent of 5,000 afghanis, or about $60.

      “In Pakistan, I owned a small shop selling dried fruit, but here in Kabul I can barely keep my job as a taxi driver,” he said.

      Outside his house, a garbage-filled river breeds mosquitoes and smells of faeces. The roads are unpaved and electricity is scarce, if available at all. His son, a university graduate with a business degree, has been looking for a job since finishing his studies.

      Safi said there’s little to no assistance from both the government and aid groups. Four years after leaving, the family survives on money sent from relatives still in Pakistan.

      High expectations

      Rights groups say Afghanistan has failed to implement large-scale land programmes for refugees. Government policy aims to include returnees and displaced communities within the country’s development programmes, but the conflict itself makes progress difficult for all Afghans.

      “Returnees often have high expectations and it doesn’t line up with what we can provide,” said Abdul Basit Ansari, a spokesman at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, which oversees programmes for returnees and the displaced. “Both security and employment continue to be big challenges – not only for those who return, but for Afghans across the country.”

      The return to Afghanistan has been difficult for Safi and his family, but he said some aspects are better, compared with living an undocumented existence in Pakistan.

      “We were never fully integrated. We always lived in fear of being found out,” he said. “Afghanistan might be dangerous, but in some ways it is safer. This is our home. We are free here.”

      Still, in a crisis marked by precarious returns and long-lasting displacement, many Afghans are looking to leave.

      At Pakistan’s embassies and consulates across Afghanistan, more than 5,000 visa applications are made daily, according to Pakistan’s ambassador, with many people waiting in line for days.

      The Pakistan-Afghanistan border has traditionally been porous, but Safi said regulations have toughened in recent years: “We now need passports and visas to cross the border,” he said. “These are expensive and hard to come by.”

      If it wasn’t for paperwork, he admitted, his family would have returned to Pakistan long ago. Instead, he’s eyeing other migration opportunities for his university-educated but jobless son.

      “Pakistan is becoming less of an option,” he said. “My son is now trying to go to Europe instead.”