The Afghan Diaspora, Vulnerability Continues!
Ewaz Ali Bahrami
War and drought, the absolute causes of diaspora, debilitated the Afghans with its three decade permanence. The diaspora created by the Soviet invasion, the Jihad against occupiers, the civil war, the Taliban and exhausting drought forced Afghans to flee the country and knock almost every country’s door for asylum.
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in the 1979 commenced a long-lasting misery and diaspora for the people of the arid territory. The jihad against the Soviet Union made Afghans pay a high cost. Approximately, 2 million dead and millions other were forced to flee the country. Subsequently, the mujahidin and Taliban sunk the country into civil war. Simultaneously, Unprecedented drought became the other cause to force afghans flee the country.
After, collapse of Taliban and formation of democratic government backed by the west, refugees return was at top priority list. In contrast, most of the asylum seekers didn’t return. Corruption, insecurity and emerging government made afghan refugees suspicious of returning and being resettled.
Afghan refugees are scattered in most of the countries of the world. The range starts with Iran and Pakistan and continues to Australia, North America and European countries.
The refugee host countries especially Iran and Pakistan’s treatment with Afghan refugees have been harsh and probably against the UN refugee convention. Aside deporting the refugees, Iran always have misbehaved Afghan Refugees by humiliating, undermining their employment rights, keeping them away from education, and torturing kids and elder refugees in their detention centers before deporting. For instance, recently many social sites and various parks throughout Iran were banned for Afghans.
Pakistan though, had a better behavior with the refugees. In spite of that, Afghan refugees are insulted by the authorities every day in Pakistan. Many are deported; some are tortured for not having documents. Without any serious pursuit, Afghans are usually killed in mid-day in the cities.
Pakistani and Iranian Officials are often using the refugee matter as a political pressure on the Afghan Government to achieve their goals inside the afghan politics. This two neighbor country wants to play a significant role in political perspective of Afghanistan by using the refugees as leverage. The refugee matter needs a clear policy by the government especially for the ones residing in Pakistan and Iran.
After the victory of Kevin Rudd from the pro-refugee Labor party of Australia in 2007, Australia became the new heaven for refugees. Rudd dismissed the harsh policies of ex-prime minister John Howard and passed a more humanitarian law for the refugees. Subsequently, thousands of Afghan refugees rushed towards Australia for asylum. But crossing the ocean from Indonesia and Malaysia in woody boats, sacrificed many refugees. The rising level of refugees compelled Julia Gillard the new prime minister from the Labors to set more strict policies over the refugees. In 2013, the Liberals leaded by Tony Abbott won the election and continued the strict laws of John Howard. The refugee flow stopped and was limited to UNHCR office in Jakarta.
In Most recent case, Afghan asylum seekers in Turkey started a sit-in protest in Ankara objecting UNHCR of undermining Afghan asylum seekers. More than one month passes, but no response has been received from the authorities yet. 12 of the protesters have sewed their lips and started hunger strike. Their main demand is regarding the review of their cases by the officials. The Turkey police once attacked the refugee protest and forced them into a bus and scattered them along the country camps. While, soon other refugees around turkey gathered in Ankara to continue the protest. The UNHCR officials have undermined the afghan refugees after 2012 and placed Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian nationals in their priority. In addition, Afghan authorities’ response to the sit-in was even more regretful. Afghan officials instead of supporting the refugees, blow another lash on them. They stated that the Ankara office of UNHCR was not responsible of Afghans and they provide support only for Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian refugees. While, every UNHCR office is responsible for reviewing the asylum seekers cases and resettling them regardless of their nationality and only based on the 1951 Refugee Convention of the United Nations.
Yet, Greece bordering Turkey has always misbehaved the refugees. Greece a time fostered the Athenian Civilization, but now torture refugees so that they may leave Greece. Kids and women are no exception there. Afghan refugees usually describe Greece as the worst country in their way to asylum; even they equalize it to hell. In contrast, the other countries of Europe are usually considered as safe haven for the refugees. Refugees get humanitarian support, their cases are reviewed and they are resettled in these countries.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR has the most important role in supporting the refugees and resettling them to a third country. Recently, this branch of the UN is undermining the Afghan refugees.
As UNHCR weasel from their responsibilities regarding the Afghan refugees, the Afghan Government should boost its activities to pull UNHCR back on the table and support its refugees. The United Nations incuriosity about the Afghan Refugees can damage the vulnerable refugees badly. So every effort should be considered to help the asylum seekers and rescue them from anxiety. The government should prevent the deportation of Afghans from the western countries.
Regarding refugees in Pakistan and Iran, the government should take any possible action to prevent them from being deported. Millions of Afghans are residing in Pakistan and Iran. The current government doesn’t have the capability to resettle all of the refugees. So if these refugees return now, the country will drop in other swamp of chaos.
As Concluding, the government should provide the appropriate needs for the refugees to return to the country. As the returning refugees are empty handed, the government should provide shelter and food for them and subsequently resettle them. Refugees should be provided a suitable occupation and employment rights.