Practical and immediate solidarity with the Afghan refugees!

Practical and immediate solidarity with the Afghan refugees!

While the Greek government is sending contradictory messages about dealing with the humanitarian crisis caused by the return of the Taliban to power, thousands of Afghan refugees living in Greece are anxious for the fate of their relatives and themselves, as based on the Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) issued in June they may be returned to Turkey as a safe third country with a risk of onward deportation to Afghanistan.

Following the Taliban offensive in Kabul on August 15, Greece signed a Joint Declaration with dozens of other countries around the world, stressing that Afghan citizens and nationals of other countries wishing to leave Afghanistan should be allowed to leave safely and that airports and border crossings must continue to operate normally.

A day later, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, stated that “Greece will not be a gateway for a new wave of refugees” like in 2015 and that Turkey must be supported by the EU at the central level in order to cope with the new refugee flows. A few days before 5 August, while the Taliban were occupying one city after another, in a joint letter to the European Commission, Mr. Mitarakis, along with counterparts from Germany, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, asked for a continuation of deportations of Afghans, arguing that “stopping returns sends the wrong signal” and is likely to motivate even more Afghans to flee the country to the EU.At the same time -according to media reports- Greece is exploring the possibility of expanding the metal fence in Evros and the construction of new sections. Border surveillance is expected to include the use of movement detection robots (roborder).

Given the humanitarian emergency in Afghanistan, support for those at risk must be clear. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last week called on States to suspend the forcible return of nationals and former habitual residents of Afghanistan, including those who have had
their asylum claims rejected, and urged all countries to allow civilians fleeing Afghanistan access to their territories and to ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement at all times.

European countries such as Germany and Sweden have already decided to temporarily suspend the expulsions of rejected asylum seekers, while others have already pledged to accept a number of refugees from Afghanistan.

According to the Greek Government Council of National Security (KYSEA), the priority remains the coordination for the safe release and return from Afghanistan of persons and their families who cooperated with the Greek Armed Forces. At the same time, the need for border protection was discussed, emphatically continuing the doctrine of deterrence at all costs (including human rights violations at the border, generalized and systematic detention, deportations).

In Greece, Afghan asylum seekers are forced, even under the current developments, to live with the anxiety of a possible return to Afghanistan via Turkey, which Greece unilaterally designated on 7 June as a safe third country for Afghan refugees among others. The number of pending applications from Afghans at the end of the first half was 13,864, i.e. 30% of the total pending.

It should be recalled that Turkey applies the Geneva Convention subject to a geographical limitation only to European citizens, meaning that Afghan citizens will not be able to obtain refugee status there. Turkey has also almost completed the reconstruction of a 295km wall along its border with Iran to prevent the arrival of Afghan refugees.

"Many Afghan refugees live in Turkey without papers, because it is not possible to apply for asylum. Every day they can be arrested anywhere and deported. I know families that have been separated and the men have been forced to sign a voluntary return," says to Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) Abbas* from Afghanistan, who lives as a recognised refugee in Greece.

In a statement to RSA, Begium*, who lives and works as a doctor in Kabul with her family members legally residing in Greece, described the situation in Afghanistan as follows: "In recent days we have not been allowed to return to work because they can not to take responsibility for whatever happens. Our life is worse than prison because in prison you feel safe. We are constantly living a nightmare with the fear that someone will come and hurt us." Her minor nieces have also taken refuge in Kabul province for fear of kidnapping and forced marriage as the Taliban approached their area.

“This is a regime of obscurantism. I am worried about my sister and her family who cannot leave the country and their lives are in danger because of the status I had. All the borders are now controlled by the Taliban," says Morteza*, a recognized refugee who worked as an interpreter for foreign forces.

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) calls on the Greek government:

-To recommend to the Council of the EU the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for Afghan citizens at risk.

To withdraw the JMD on the basis of which Turkey is considered a safe third country for Afghan refugees.

To support the creation of safe escape routes for Afghan citizens who are forced to flee their country due to the circumstances and to show practical solidarity by pledging to receive a sufficient number of refugees from Afghanistan.

-To streamline family reunification procedures for Afghans who have received refugee status in Greece with their family members living in Afghanistan.

-To ensure the fair distribution of Afghan refugees from Greece to other European countries through relocation.

* The names of the refugees are not listed for safety reasons

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