Afghan refugees have been building a mass movement across Europe in recent years, fighting for every inch of access and human rights that they have attained. Their latest move is to challenge the labeling of their precarious existence as "migrants" or "refugees" — a contentious topic as the European Union continues to look for ways to justify their policy of deporting Afghans to a war zone.
In this spirit, Afghan asylum seekers in Greece have released a list of demands to the EU commissioner calling into question their apprehension and detention under the Joint Way Forward agreement between the EU and Afghanistan, which has been widely criticized by human rights groups, refugee rights activists, Afghan parliamentarians and others.
On Tuesday morning, Afghan asylum seekers, refugee rights activists and their supporters will gather and march to deliver this list of demands. Among the 15 demands are calls for the "abandonment" of the JWF deal, the EU-Turkey deal (which functions much like the JWF under the pretext that Turkey or Afghanistan are "safe” countries to deport to, the Dublin Regulation and its "first entry" laws which keep refugees and migrants confined to their first point of entry — usually the debt stricken south of Europe, namely Greece and Italy.
What follows is an exclusive copy, made available to Ricochet, of the letter from Afghan refugees in Greece addressed to the Secretary-General of the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
As Afghan refugees presently residing in camps across Greece, we issue the following demands:
Immediately halt all deportations of recently arrived Afghans from Greece; designate recently arrived Afghans as international protection applicants, subsidiary protection applicants and refugees fleeing generalized violence; and support family reunification transfer for Afghans with loved ones elsewhere in Europe
From the recent massacres of unarmed civilians in Mirzaolang in northern Afghanistan, in which children, women, and the elderly were ruthlessly killed, to the daily suicide bombings across the country, to the reckless U.S. drone strikes in Nangarhar, Afghan asylum seekers in Greece say, “Afghanistan is not a safe country.”
In addition to the high levels of corruption that run from highest to the lowest ranks within the Afghan government that make daily life so difficult, the majority of the population have become victims of the violence of the Taliban, ISIS, as well as the government of Afghanistan itself. The corruption and nepotism within the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has led to sectarian and ethnic violence — even the “National Unity Government” has been divided in this respect. In recent months, Afghan security forces have proven they can not maintain security as ISIS and the Taliban strike at will in supposedly “safe” centers while gaining more territory in rural areas. The inability of the Afghan government to maintain security for its population has further polarized Afghan society.
Moreover, Afghanistan has become a laboratory for imperialist nations where the latest U.S. and NATO weaponry — like the “Mother of All Bombs” dropped in northeast Afghanistan this past April — can be tested with little global outcry. Armed, corporate mercenaries have become an integral part of the occupation which has destabilized the country further as there are no laws holding private contractors to account.
In light of all these destabilizing factors that are the daily reality of the unarmed civilian Afghan population, we remind the European Union in the strongest terms that Afghanistan is not experiencing peacetime safety, but rather should be designated as a zone of generalized violence experiencing ramped up wartime hostilities on a weekly basis. There is sufficient country of origin information to show the immediate safety threat and on-going generalized violence happening in Afghanistan today. Afghanistan may be formally inclusive, but factually the state and its apparatus are just as corrupt and vicious as its enemies the Taliban and ISIS. Therefore, the internal state protection option is no longer viable for international and subsidiary protection applicants fleeing persecution and generalized violence.
Therefore and therewith we submit to the European Union Member States and Competent Authorities the following list of demands:
Immediately halt all deportations
This means immediate abandonment of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward (“JWF”) agreement. The JWF deal is widely known for being a backroom deal forced on Afghanistan in order to receive humanitarian aid — which is illegal. The JWF agreement, which has been widely criticized by the Afghan parliament and human rights groups is based on the false assumption that Afghanistan is “safe” to deport to, when all recent reports indicate an alarming rate of violence.
And this means the immediate abandonment of the EU-Turkey Deal. Turkey is not a safe country for its own citizens; furthermore, according to Turkish laws only Europeans can claim asylum on par with the 1951 Convention On The Status of Refugees as Turkey is not a signatory to the 1967 spatio-temporal extension of the Convention to refugees from all backgrounds. Thus, the deportation of Afghan refugees to Turkey will leave them in extremely vulnerable positions that can lead to their abuse by traffickers and other criminal elements in Turkey.
Designate recently arrived Afghans as refugees escaping conflict
This means equal treatment of all refugees and an end to the state-enforced tiered system of resettlement and bureaucratic divisions among refugees of different national origin.
Women are oppressed, discriminated against, and experience daily gender-based violence. Single women, as well as single mothers, have no way of supporting themselves and keeping themselves and families secure in an atmosphere of rampant patriarchy and sexism. All women from Afghanistan must be considered refugees as they fall under the category of “persecution based on gender and sexual orientation” of the Convention.
Substantial access to all support due to asylum seekers, including: access to adequate shelter, education for all children and youth, language classes and employment for adults, educational and vocational training for young single male adults, psychosocial support with adequate interpretation.
Enact family reunification
This means end the “First Entry” provisions to the Dublin Regulations, and immediately allow decision-making power to asylum seekers in regards to relocation areas and family reunification.
To oversee that demands are met, we request the formation of an independent body of refugees, determined by refugees.
Afghan Refugees of Greece
Supporters include: Afghan Community in Greece, Afghan Migrant & Refugee Community in Greece, Documenting Afghanistan, ΚΕΕΡΦΑ, Network of Social Support to Immigrants & Refugees, No One is Illegal, United Afghan’s Community in Greece, War Resisters League