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Afghan Deportees Return To Shattered Lives

Asylum seekers from Afghanistan rub a fellow protester's feet against the cold as they gather to protest at the 'Grand Place' in Mons, Belgium. (file photo)
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan rub a fellow protester's feet against the cold as they gather to protest at the 'Grand Place' in Mons, Belgium. (file photo)

Twenty-eight-year-old Zainullah Naseri, like many other Afghans, risked everything seeking prosperity in a developed country, only to be deported. Two years ago he spent thousands of dollars to embark on a perilous land and sea journey to Australia.

He spent the next two years in the infamous Curtin and Christmas Island detention centers before being transferred to the Villawood camp near Sydney this August, where he was deported back to Afghanistan.

"They told me in Australia that my case was rejected and that I had to go back to my homeland. I cried and begged them not to send me back to Afghanistan," he told RFE/RL's Gandhara website. "I told them that I cannot go back to Afghanistan. But they did not listen and expelled me."

His real ordeal began after returning to Afghanistan. He was abducted by the Taliban on the way home from the capital Kabul to his village in Jaghori district in the central province of Ghazni.

"The Taliban tortured me. They told me that I had lived in a foreign country and had become an infidel," he said. "I told them that I was expelled from Australia, but they wanted money and said they would kill me if I failed to give them money."

Being captured by the Taliban was always Naseri's worst nightmare, because his Hazara shi'a minority was persecuted by the Taliban during their rule in the 1990s.

Luckily, he escaped from the makeshift Taliban prison inside a mud house surrounded by a high-wall after just two days in captivity.

"After 10 o'clock that night, I heard the sound of sporadic shooting and the Taliban running out of the compound," he said. "I broke the padlock with a stone to break free from the chains tied around my feet. I then escaped to climb up the compound wall through the window near a toilet and run away."

After returning to his village, creditors in his community began asking Naseri to return the money they had lent him to make his ill-fated journey to Australia. His misadventure had also divided his family.

"When my brother and mother heard that I had returned to Afghanistan, they blamed my wife because they thought she had asked me to return," he said. "They beat her and she fled our home and is now hiding is somewhere in Kabul."

Naseri's three-year-old daughter now lives with his family in Ghazni, but he lives in hiding in Kabul because he fears for his life.

While there are no precise statistics on the total number of Afghan asylum seekers worldwide, more than 28,000 Afghans sought asylum in the EU alone in the period between April, 2013 and June 2014, according to Eurostat.

The influx from developing countries has also hardened Western attitudes, with most developed nations tightening their immigration policies.

The Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison said he had instructed an "appropriate investigation be made" after the media reported that Naseri was kidnapped by the Taliban after being deported to Afghanistan.

But Morrison also said that he would not "intervene in further planned deportations” of ethnic Hazaras.

Sayed Reza Kazemi, an Afghan scholar at Heidelberg University in Germany, says his recent research shows Afghan youth leave because of poverty and joblessness.

Kazmi's studied the predominantly Shi'a Hazaras and Sayyeds in the western province of Herat. He found that almost all the young people leaving Afghanistan are saddled with debt because they needed at least $20,000 to pay human smugglers to reach Europe or Australia.

He sees desperate young people such as Naseri repeatedly attempting to flee their miseries in Afghanistan.

"I think the situation of these individuals will be very difficult in Afghanistan." he told RFE/RL's Gandhara website. "They pay huge sums to get out of Afghanistan. Then they cannot return because shame and disgrace awaits them if they fail in their goal."

This is true for Naseri, who lost almost everything while attempting to build a new life in Australia.

"The Taliban still have my telephone, which had my entire profile and contacts," he said. "In addition, my name has also appeared in articles, so I’m very concerned about my life. It’s too hard to live here."