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European Asylum Decisions ‘Ruin’ Afghan Lives

FILE: An Afghan, whose asylum application was been rejected, kisses the ground after he arrived from Germany in Kabul airport in December, 2016.
FILE: An Afghan, whose asylum application was been rejected, kisses the ground after he arrived from Germany in Kabul airport in December, 2016.

Simin, 32, an Afghan asylum seeker in Germany, feels her life has been ruined by a recent government decision.

Two years ago, the mother of four, who is reluctant to share her last name because of security fears, gambled everything on the chance to reach Europe.

But now her hopes of building a new life in Germany are being dashed as she faces deportation back to Afghanistan.

Last month, Simin received a letter from the German authorities that said her family’s asylum application was rejected because Afghanistan is “safe” and they should go back to their country.

“When we received the devastating news, we were all shocked. It was a very difficult moment for us,” she told Radio Free Afghanistan. “I tried hard not to lose myself in front of my children but my daughter cried a lot. She felt very bad. She kept saying to me that she did not want to go back to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not safe,” she added.

In 2015, Simin and her husband decided to traverse the nearly 7,000-kilometer perilous journey from the Afghan capital Kabul to Germany.

They wanted to find a better life for themselves and a bright future for their two daughters and two sons.

They sold their house and car in Kabul to pay more than $20,000 to the people smugglers who organized their journey.

The family traveled through Iran and Turkey and across the Aegean Sea to reach Greece.

Like the more than 1 million other asylum seekers and refugees who reached Germany in summer 2015, they were sent to the country’s second-largest city, Hamburg.

Life went smoothly in the host country for more than a year. They received more than $ 2,000 a month to pay their bills. Their children began attending a local school, and the family started to learn German.

But the family now faces the prospects of having to start a new life in the country they hoped they were leaving forever.

As a last resort, Simin and her husband are now consulting a lawyer to challenge the German government’s decision to force them to go back to Afghanistan.

Since 2015, nearly 170,000 Afghans have filed asylum applications in European Union countries. They comprise the second-largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians.

But not all are welcome. Afghans make up a large part of the hundreds of thousands of rejected asylum seekers Berlin hopes to send back to countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Peter Altmaier, the German government's coordinator on refugee affairs, says the number of rejected asylum applications have increased.

“In 2016, some 700,000 applications for asylum were made, and almost 300,000 were rejected,” he told the Bild newspaper. “We want to deport these people swiftly. Otherwise, it hurts the credibility of our country and its laws."

An agreement signed between Kabul and the EU in October 2016 establishes that Kabul is bound to accept an unlimited number of failed asylum seekers. Under the agreement, Brussels can speed up the return process of Afghan migrants whose asylum applications are rejected by host countries.

In 2015, German Interior Minister Tomas De Maiziere outlined his government’s rationale for deporting Afghans. He said the EU has poured millions of euros into developmental aid for Afghanistan along with troops and police to help train Afghan security forces.

Afghans should "stay in their country," he emphasized. "The people who come from Afghanistan cannot expect that they will be able to stay."

Afghan officials say that compared with the 580 people deported last year, they have so far received 248 deportees from the EU this year. An even greater number are returning voluntarily. Last year, nearly 55,000 asylum seekers chose to leave Germany after failing the rigorous asylum tests.

Simin and her family, who follow the current situation in Afghanistan, however, are reluctant to return to their homeland.

"Afghanistan is not safe. Why should I go to see, God forbid, my daughters be sexually abused or myself or my son be killed in a suicide attack?” she said. “Only the presidential palace where [President Ashraf] Ghani lives is safe. So we will never go back to Afghanistan," she added.

In Kabul, the Afghan authorities are ready to receive deported compatriots. Gul Aqa Rohani, a border police commander at Kabul airport, says they welcomed deportees from Germany last week.

“There were 15 people, mostly from central and southern Afghanistan. They were received very respectfully both by the police and the airport officials,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “They were taken to the guest houses of the Refugees and Returnees Ministry.”

More Afghans face deportation in Sweden. Ahmad Zaki Khalil is the head of the migration committee at the Afghan Association in Sweden.

He says 10 Afghan migrants were recently sent back to Afghanistan.

Jawed, a 43-year-old father of two, is expected to be deported from Sweden.

He told Radio Free Afghanistan over the phone on March 28 that his asylum application was rejected after four years.

Jawed refused to share his last name to protect his family’s identity. He said that he had followed his wife after she arrived in Sweden in 2011. The couple had spent more than $12,000 on the arduous journey.

"My wife worked at a kindergarten here but left the job after my case was rejected, and one of our daughters is crying and feeling restless,” he said. “I am very concerned that my family will remain here. I don't have anyone in Afghanistan. I have no future there. I was told to come back legally, but I don't know if I will be [able to stay] alive in Afghanistan."

According to the UN office in Afghanistan, more than 11,500 civilians were either killed or maimed in 2016. Most casualties were a result of escalating violence by the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militants.

Masood Ahmadi at the International Organization for Migration in Afghanistan estimates that the country will welcome more returning migrants than any other country this year. These include up to 1 million Afghans from neighboring Pakistan.

"If you are coming to Afghanistan against your will, you are not ready to return. Reintegration back into society will be very difficult, and forced deportations have the stigma of failure," he said. "It will encourage remigration."