We Want Justice for Afghan Refugees
Declaration of Afghan Refugees at the Vienna Refugee Protest Camp 2017
Protest Camp Vienna, Austria
Honorable Prime Minister of Austria, Mr. Christian Kern, Leaders of the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and relevant authorities,
Since, the withdrawal of the international military forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 the security situation in the country has seriously deteriorated with increased civilian casualties and a growing internal displacement crisis in the country. The Taliban and the Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan now control more territory than at any point since 2001.
The deadly terrorist attacks on civilians in the past 8 months of this year 2017 and the inability of the Afghan government to ensure their adequate protection show that Afghanistan remains an unsafe country for refugees to be returned to. The capital Kabul, had suffered the highest levels of civilian casualties, followed by Helmand, Kandahar, Paktia, Balkh and Nangarhar provinces. The other regions, where (high profile) attacks are not frequently taking place, are mostly overcrowded by returnees – especially those who have been forced to leave the Iran and Pakistan. Even the relief help by International Organizations is not reaching and cannot cover sufficiently the suffering population and their needs.
On the one hand, Afghanistan is seen as a place where armed groups like the so-called Islamic State or pose such a danger that the USA felt compelled to drop the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb and has been forced the Trump Administration to announced a new strategy on 21 August 2017 that calls for more troops to combat Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan, Al-Qaida, Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the Afghan government is not capable due to corruption and warlords control over the key government security positions to reduce harm to civilians, the civilian received higher levels of casualties, confirmed by various valuable reports issued by United Nations, Amnesty International and other international organizations
While civilian casualties remain high, with women and children suffering the worst of the violence, we the Afghan Asylum seekers are forced to return to such a country!?
In issuing this declaration, we put forth the following demands and kindly request the concerned Austrian and EU authorities to respect our rights taking into consideration the international instruments, the EU conventions protocols related to human rights and refugees as follows:
1) Immediately put a halt on deportations to Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is not a safe country.
Considering the volatile security situation of Afghanistan we demand an end to asylum decisions influenced by the inhuman commitment or agreement between the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the EU, which fundamentally violates the 1951 and its amendment of Protocol 1967 Convention on the Status of Refugees. We – in collaboration with humanitarian organizations – emphasis, that Afghanistan is no safe place for Afghans to return. We want the Austrian government to take a diverse set of official reports into serious consideration giving them a higher priority – and not only mentioning them, such reports as from UNAMA , Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations from 2016/17 compared to singular assessments such as the Mahringer Gutachten,
We are convinced that it is necessary to consider the rise of casualties across the country in suicide attacks; bomb blasts, militant attacks, and rampant violence from both political and criminal elements serve as a sign of the inability of the state to maintain the security of the vast majority of the population. In this light we request that both the Austrian government and the European authorities review Afghanistan’s safety and security situation anew and acknowledge that Afghanistan cannot be considered a safe country.
2) Immediately reconsider and reevaluate all asylum cases which were rejected based on singular reports – like the Mahringer Report as a Basis for Safe return to the Country Presupposition: Afghanistan is not a safe country.
The Mahringer Report portrays Afghanistan – especially Kabul – as safe enough for a return. However, its assumption about safety rests solely on the major metropolitan centres. While, according to some estimates, there exists a perpetual war in thirty of the thirty three provinces of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, today we can no longer speak of safe centres as the capital itself is a continuous war scene. Recently, Herat, Nangarhar, Kabul, Paktia, and other urban centres have become a target of the Taliban and Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan where not only military personnel, but also children and elderly have become victims of vicious massacres of civilians. The guideline of UNHCR for protection of refugees from Afghanistan (UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Afghanistan) has to be taken more seriously and consequently applied. The high amount of internal displaced persons and the lack of economical resources followed by the high jobless rate make a survival in Kabul and a new settlement of former refugees chanceless and this procedure is risking the survival of them. The core of reasoning of the Mahringer report – the traditional supportive networks from former times, has been destroyed by war, conflict, poverty and corruption. Several reports dissent the Mahringer report – not only referring his estimation of minimum income for survival at Kabul, but also the chances for returnees finding an accommodation or a job and getting support by a social network. Moreover are the networks of anti-government elements – as the Taliban or the Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan and others frequently underestimated, as they are acting nationwide in Afghanistan, whereby persecution of concerned persons is crossing the borders of the provinces – and also cities like Kabul cannot offer a safe alternative.
Furthermore, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is suffering from chronic corruption and internal divisions that perpetuate a state which propagates instability and insecurity. This has further deteriorated the condition of the average residents of Afghanistan. Therefore, it is a threat to the safety of Afghan asylum seekers to be deported to Afghanistan as the country poses a constant threat to the life of its inhabitants, which is according to the Convention on the Status of Refugees a “well-founded reason“ to not return to Afghanistan.
3) Provision of qualified interpreters for both the initial interview and the appeal process
Lack of qualified interpreters has been a major source of misunderstanding and miscommunication which has led to asylum case rejections. It is necessary to have a clear oversight of interpreter staff in the initial interview process, as well as, the appeal process in case of initial rejection. This means: adequate training and education of interpreters; ensuring adequate accountability of interpreters through secondary evaluation of the initial interview for appeal process (availability of audio recording and transcripts of the interviews for appeal reevaluation), and of course, has the asylum claimant in advance sufficient being informed about the right to decline a specific interpreter due to biases perceived by the claimant.
4) Provision of Legal Support for the adequate understanding of refugee rights by the asylum applicant.
According to the Convention & Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951, 1967) “a refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all Contracting States.“(1951 Convention, Chapter II, Article 16) Free access must be interpreted as access to appropriate understanding and representation wherever necessary. Access to legal counsel for the initial asylum interview and throughout the process with adequate interpretation is a right. This right – affordable legal counsel – should be extended to the instance of the highest court.
We need more access to information and judicial advice in our native languages; a quicker handling of our cases; the recognition of our refugee status; and the right to family reunion on timely manner.
5) Provision of education facilities for children, young adolescents fifteen (15) years of age and older, as well as, young adults for better integration
It is commonly an accepted conclusion among scholars and professionals that integration is directly tied to education of children, youth, and young adults. It is to this end that we request that education – in public schools, as necessary part of integration -will be available to all refugees – also for those, who are over 15 years old and their compulsory school attendance has ended. Vocational training for young adults, as well as, language classes for all ages are fundamental to a cohesive integration.
We will continue our protest until all deportations are halted!
The Afghan Refugees in Austria of the Vienna Refugee Protest Camp 2017
Afghanischen Geflüchteten beim Wiener Refugee-Protestcamp 2017
Image (c) Murtaza Elham