Ukraine knocks Afghan refugees out of world favor

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has knocked Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban down the global protection pecking order. Unable to obtain asylum, many of them are now at risk of being deported to Afghanistan, where a new crackdown awaits them.

On August 15, 2021, during a family visit, an Afghan diplomat arrived in the capital of a European country with his family. Without knowing anything about the situation in Afghanistan, he was asked to apply for asylum at immigration control at the airport.

“Because the republic he represented no longer exists,” recalled the diplomat. Not knowing what to do, he reluctantly agreed.

From that fateful day, as the Taliban moved to tighten its grip on the country, suppressing all dissenting voices, many countries involved in Afghanistan over the past two decades stepped up to save a handful of people – where they failed to protect the democratic values ​​promised to everyone.

When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his entourage fled, thousands of people had already invaded Kabul airport to get out of Afghanistan, the great evacuation had already begun.

After the US withdrawal from Kabul airport, many were transferred to third countries to remain safe until their final relocation, while many others are still staying in shelters until their case is approved.

“Belgium has already started to reject any Afghan applying for subsidiary protection, as Afghanistan is no longer considered a country at risk by Belgium”

Nargis*, 25, in Stuttgart, Germany, recalls that she had no way out, as her and her family’s passports had been submitted for renewal at the passport office in Balkh just before the province falls into the hands of the Taliban.

“We were desperate to even have our passports expired, but we couldn’t find a way to get them,” said Nargis, a refugee from Afghanistan currently living in Germany.

Nargis and his family, after months in hiding, obtained travel documents to travel to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. They were finally on their way to safety after months of living under Taliban rule, but in disguise.

“It was a big sigh of relief when we crossed the border into Uzbekistan.” They reached Germany the next day.

Afghan asylum seekers cook in a makeshift migrant camp in Pantin, a northeastern suburb of Paris [Getty Images]

After the fall of Kabul, individuals from different walks of life, having no association with foreign embassies, INGOs, media and other individuals who could get them out of Afghanistan, gave them much hope to flee Afghanistan.

Others who found themselves in danger took refuge in neighboring countries to seek permanent resettlement in Europe, Canada or America. Over the following months, their cases were processed quickly.

However, developments in Ukraine and the exodus of Ukrainians to European countries have pushed the evacuees from Afghanistan into a situation of uncertainty.

While in Germany, recent refugees from Afghanistan are forced to make room for Ukrainians, Belgium has already begun deporting refugees to Afghanistan, a country marked by violence, restriction of freedoms and human rights under the Taliban.

Since March 2, Belgium has already started to reject any Afghan requesting subsidiary protection, Afghanistan being “no longer considered a country at risk by Belgium”.

The General Commission for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA) of Belgium considers that “with the seizure of power by the Taliban, the security situation has changed significantly (…), but there is no longer any real risk of being victim of indiscriminate violence in Afghanistan”. .”

This comes at a time when, despite the Taliban claiming to have brought “peace” to Afghanistan, explosions and suicide bombings continue in Kabul, in particular, targeting the Hazara community, and extrajudicial executions are on the rise in the country. northern part of Afghanistan where pockets of resistance challenge the Taliban regime.

The continued targeted killings of former security personnel and the detention and torture of women’s rights activists have reached such an extent that they have raised concerns within UN agencies.

Richard BennettUN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, tweeted: “Many extremely disturbing videos, audios and reports of violations in the northern provinces #panjshir #Takhar #Baghlan. Further verification is required. Indispensable for the international #human rights and humanitarian law to be respected. Watch closely.”

Every calamity produces its victims, arousing the sympathy and empathy of people around the world with different religious destinies and skin colors.

In early August, as the Taliban moved towards capturing Kabul at lightning speed, it took everyone by surprise; with every inch of advance toward Kabul, people began to panic, airfares skyrocketed, and anyone with visas felt unable to leave Afghanistan.

After the United States began to evacuate its embassy personnel, the smoke coming from the embassy made it seem like it was all over, adding to people’s apprehension.

Almost everyone in the Western world felt the need to save the Afghan people from the wrath of the Taliban.

But the event in Eastern Europe that led to the war in Ukraine left the Western world with victims of its ‘own kind’ – people with ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’ who were in desperate need of shelter. and assistance.

Millions of Ukrainians have been relocated and warmly received by foreign countries, and most countries and companies have launched special treatment programs.

Hazara protesters display the Afghan flag during a demonstration in Rome, Italy [Getty Images]

Fast food chain Burger King, through its franchises in more than 25 countries across Europe, has partnered with local NGOs to distribute $2 million in free Whopper meal vouchers to Ukrainian refugees arriving in those countries. .

In Germany, telecommunications companies provide free SIM cards with unlimited data volume and calls.

Helpukraine tickets introduced by the German train service provider “Deutsche Bahn” advertised free use of all rail transport, meaning that all local buses, trains or metros could be used only with a Ukrainian passport or ID card. identify.

The special treatment of Ukrainian refugees has drawn serious criticism; to this end, an alliance of 57 organizations criticized “the unequal treatment of non-Ukrainian refugees”, calling for non-discriminatory actions. However, for many refugees from Afghanistan, the ordeal is not yet over.

The Canadian government announced that it would accept refugees who had worked with the Canadian government.

Just before the fall of Kabul, an Afghan interpreter (who preferred not to be named) working with the Canadian Forces where he used the Afghan Immigration Program, asked to be evacuated.

After several months in hiding, she was told to travel to Pakistan for further treatment and testing. After going through the process, he waited for his flight but was then told he was not eligible to evacuate despite spending months in Pakistan.

After appealing the decision, he still hopes he will get permission to settle with his family in Canada. However, his wait is longer than expected.

Hundreds of Afghans are stuck in pakistanand many have staged protests over the past two months in Islamabad as their fates remain unknown.

Many evacuees have been left in limbo in third countries for months without any progress on their cases, which they say have been derailed by the situation in Ukraine and the influx of refugees to European countries.

Recently resettled evacuees, like Nargis in Germany, struggle to enroll in language classes.

“For the past three months, every time I call to inquire about the possibility of joining a German course, I am told that I have to wait because they are currently dealing with Ukrainian refugees,” Nargis explains sadly.

“Afghanistan has been driven out of mind. It’s like we don’t even belong here anymore; I feel unwelcome every time I’m treated differently.

Sayed Jalal Shajjan is a freelance journalist based in Kabul. It covers post-conflict development and counter-terrorism operations.

Follow him on Twitter: @S_Jalal_Shajjan

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