Don't travel to Afghanistan

29 May 2018

Don't travel to Afghanistan

Take a look at the travel advice on the Dutch government's website, and you'll see the same warning repeated at least seven times: don't go to Afghanistan. Armed attacks and incidents happen almost daily, often with police officers or soldiers as their target, but in places where many people gather. However, turn to another section, the one headed 'Official Communication -, Afghanistan', and you can read the policy concerning the return of refugees who have been refused asylum, though only after ninety pages of information on restrictions of human rights. There you will see that forced deportation of refugees to Afghanistan is indeed possible. The absolutely justified advice on travel does not therefore seem to be valid for Afghans themselves. This is, to say the least, most peculiar.

- By Jasper van Dijk

So on the one hand Dutch people are warned not to go to Afghanistan, while on the other, Afghans, such as 18-year-old refugee Haroon, are forced to love in uncertainty while thousands sign a petition demanding that they not be sent back there.

Shortly, a fresh Official Communication on Afghanistan will be issued, as it should be. In fact, the wave of violence has brought the revision forward. The information on the basis of which it was decided that youngsters like Haroon can be sent back to Afghanistan dates to November 2016. Since then, however, violence, and the number of bloody attacks, have risen enormously. The UN High Commission on Refugees is for this reason opposed to forced return to Afghanistan. Violence isn't directed only at westerners, as the Dutch government would have us believe. Seven out of ten refugees forcibly returned have had to flee the country again.

A revised Official Communication and a fresh policy on whether or not to return refugees to Afghanistan are therefore urgently needed. Despite this, while the new policy is in the process of being devised, Afghans are still being sent back. An SP parliamentary motion to suspend deportations until a new policy is adopted failed to win a majority. What this means is that the government is knowingly putting people in life-threatening danger when it's possible that in a few weeks it will have been decided that this is no longer necessary.

Take the case of the deaf six-year-old, Kalma, who in Afghanistan would be unable to make herself understood using her sign language. Or the young women, 13-year-old Kosar and 22-year-old Maedeh, who have become accustomed here to freedom but who in Afghanistan would live in fear because their father refused to join the Taliban. Or 19-year old Mostafa, studying here and keen on sport, and who in Afghanistan has nobody at all. To send any of these people back to wretchedness and dread is wrong.

Don't misunderstand me: if countries are demonstrably safe then asylum seekers who have exhausted all procedures and been refused must be returned. But Afghanistan is far from safe, as countless organisations, including the UN, have stressed.

While all this has been going on, numerous local authorities are taking their responsibilities seriously and calling on their mayors to refuse to cooperate in the deportations and put pressure on the government to stop sending people back to war-torn countries like Afghanistan. In addition, a broad coalition of social organisations has come together to present a petition against the deportations, a plea which has so far been signed by over 60,000 people. This weekend protest actions will take place in several towns and cities, including Amsterdam. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who say: don't send them back!

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