Between a rock and a hard place - Afghan asylum seekers opt to give the journey a go
As Europe tightens its borders and reviews its perceived ‘soft laws’ on asylum, war-weary Afghans continue to embark on the thorny journey. Lately, the Afghans have witnessed a number of heartbreaking incidents in this regard; such as the drowning of multiple members of single families near Greece, closing of borders and expulsion. But, many feel caught between a rock and a hard place, and hence opt to give the journey a go.
Despite years of US-backed military campaign against the militants in Afghanistan, the Taliban and other rebels group remain alive and strong here. Apart from a number of urban centers- that too are not free from the occasion terrorist attacks- most of the country remains vulnerable to the rebels.
And that combined with the fragile economy and dwindling job opportunities is compelling the Afghans to flee.
Sara-i-Shahzada, an old-style currency exchange market in the Afghan capital Kabul, is described by many locals as the place to connect with global human traffickers. And, business here is going on is as usual. Here, Kamal Khan (not real name) is aiming to try his luck once more after being deported by Iran in winter last year.
“I have no life in Kabul, my village in Laghman province is on fire because of the militants there, I will not give-up trying my luck to reach Germany”, the 18-year old told Fair Planet.
Khan’s father has deposited $ 6000 with an agent at the Sara-i-Shahzada who has promised to facilitate the journey. “He is young and has good chances of being accepted in Germany, he is our only hope for a safe future”, his father, who runs a grocery store in Kabul, said.
Statistics by the International Organization for Migration (IoM), suggest more than 130,000 people have travelled to Greece via Turkey since the start of this year, according to the same group, most of them are Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict and a bleak economic climate. Afghanistan’s own official figures suggest some 250, 000 Afghans have tried their luck to enter the EU in the past two years.
For three decades, Afghanistan was main source of refugees globally until 2014 when it was overtaken by Syria. The Kabul government fears that it is mostly the educated middle class who are leaving.
To stop the exodus “Afghanistan Needs You” campaign is underway, mainly in the capital Kabul. Young and Educated Afghans are posting passionate messages urging their country mates not abandon their country.
Shakib Mohsanyar has founded the campaign. “We are addressing the youth not to chase a wage dream and instead work hard to turn their war-torn motherland into a best place to live”, he said.
Within weeks the campaign’s Facebook page received thousands of followers. Roadside graffiti is another way the group has adapted to convey their message. One of the group’s murals is painted near the main passport office in Kabul.
But, seasoned Afghan journalist Aashiqullah Yaqoob casts doubt over the success of the campaign. “Those risking their lives via the illegal routes do not come here to obtain passports in Kabul and eventually see the murals etc, they just pay whatever they have and embark on the dangerous journey”, he noted. He argues that only concrete efforts on the ground to bring peace and stability, and create jobs for the youth can deliver in this regard.
Last week, the country’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani received harsh criticism for his blunt remarks regard those fleeing the country. "I have no sympathy," the Afghan leader told the BBC on the tens of thousands of his citizens who are fleeing the country to make the dangerous journey to Europe. He went on to compare the Afghanistan’s current situation with Germany and the UK during the World War II and urged Afghans to stay and serve.
But, Kamal Khan is not convinced. “Why are the leaders stopping us when their sons and daughters are living and thriving abroad”.
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