By Tommy Wilkes
KABUL (Reuters) – Two more planes carrying Afghans deported from Europe landed in Kabul this week, failed asylum seekers sent back under an agreement between the European Union and Afghan government.
The arrivals mean 248 people have been deported from Europe to Afghanistan this year, compared with 580 throughout 2016, said Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.
The number of Afghans deported from Europe is small compared to the thousands returning voluntarily, but deportations are rising and some migration experts say expelling people to a country where the government controls less than two thirds of territory amid a Taliban insurgency is wrong.
Fifteen deportees arrived by chartered flight from Germany on Tuesday, while 19 landed on Wednesday from Austria and 10 from Sweden. Another flight, from Finland, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.
European governments say those deported back have failed rigorous asylum tests, and that major cities like Kabul are sufficiently safe.
Afghans were the second largest group of asylum seekers in Europe in 2015, and concerns about security and their integration have encouraged politicians to take a tougher line.
“We are committed to the agreements but we need more assistance from the international community to help these people,” Miakhel told Reuters, referring to an October agreement between the EU and the Afghan government.
“There is a war against the Taliban, against Daesh (Islamic State), against Al Qaeda and this year we will have more forced deportees than last year,” he said.
Shams Ahmadi, a 24-year old ex-policeman, said he landed in Kabul on Jan. 24 after his asylum application, pending in Germany since 2011, failed a second time and police arrested him.
He said he had left Afghanistan after the Taliban blew up his house in the province of Ghazni, killing his father, and that his family had fled to Iran.
He plans to go to Europe again.
“I cannot live in Afghanistan. If I leave Kabul I will be shot by the Taliban,” he told Reuters at a non-governmental organization office in western Kabul helping him with cash for lodgings and medicine to deal with mental health problems.
Another recent returnee, Reza Alizada, said he had lived in Norway for about 18 months before police raided his hostel and detained him. He said he was 17 years old but Norwegian authorities had found him to be in his early twenties.
“I have nobody here to help me, and I have no networks to help me find a job,” he said, reflecting broader worries among returnees in a country with an unemployment rate of 40 percent.
Reuters could not verify their stories. The German and Norwegian embassies in Kabul did not respond to requests for comment.
Afghanistan will welcome more returning migrants than any other country in 2017, including up to one million from neighboring Pakistan, said Masood Ahmadi at the International Organization for Migration in Afghanistan.
“If you are coming to Afghanistan against your will, you are not ready to return. Re-integration back into society will be very difficult and forced deportations have the stigma of failure,” he said. “It will encourage re-migration.”
(Writing by Tommy Wilkes; editing by Ralph Boulton)