Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

The Plight of Afghan Refugees

The bodies of seven Afghan refugees, drowned in the Aegean Sea while trying to reach to the European countries, were returned to Kabul on Saturday. According to media reports, bodies of five other refugees from Afghanistan drowned recently in the Turkish waters are still missing. The authorities say the victims were members of three families who were all related. Afghan authorities announced recently that over 250,000 Afghans have sought refuge in more affluent industrial countries. However, since last year, hundreds of Afghans have lost their lives trying to reach to European countries. Unprecedented level of immigration of Afghans into foreign countries has evolved as a major challenge for the Afghan government.
The incident once again highlights the plight of Afghan refugees desperately trying to reach Europe. While many have already taken the precarious journey to refuge abroad, many others are desperately trying to leave the country in search of better living or because of fears of persecution and armed conflict. Many of the refugees trying to reach to European countries suffer untold hardships and sufferings, and some losing their lives. The refugees pay big amounts of money to people smugglers to take them to Europe. This is while an increasing number of refugees including Afghans making the journey find their situations in the destination countries not as desirable as they expected. Disappointed, the refugees demand help for returning to their countries of origin. On the other hand, the destination countries are gradually taking tougher stances over the ongoing migration.
Along with security and economic challenges, migration is going to be a long-term challenge for Afghanistan. Seemingly, more and more Afghans are planning to the leave the country, and there is no sight for end the humanitarian crisis in a near future. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Afghans, mostly youths and young people, queue in front of the Afghan passport department to apply for receiving passports. The Afghan government has been unable to curb the flow of people out of the country as the internal challenges in the country continue to worsen. Instead, it has so far attempted to take measures which are not dealing the root causes of the current wave of people leaving the country. Many believe that the government is tacitly encouraging the European countries to send back the Afghan refugees by saying that it would accept the returnees.
Given that there is high chance of further deterioration of the situation, more Afghans will try to get out of the country. The ongoing insurgency of the Taliban and other militant groups is one of the key factors behind the migration of Afghans. Civilian casualties have been on the rise while the prospect of peace and stability in the country remains uncertain. However, the most important factor behind the immigration of Afghans to other countries seems to be economic hardships. A survey report suggested some months ago that the main cause of Afghans leaving the country is high level of unemployment and financial problems. According to the findings of the survey, other factors are insecurity and forced recruitment of youths by the militant groups.
The Afghan migration problem would further deepen in the coming years if the destination countries continue to allow in refugees from the conflict zones like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The EU member countries have been quarreling for months to impose controls or even fully block the refugees’ pathway through Eastern Europe into the West of the continent. The efforts to take a collective European measure have failed so far while member states have imposed unilateral border controls. The pull factors of destination countries and the internal challenges in Afghanistan would make it harder for the Afghan government to curb the flow of people out of the country. The government has been so far overwhelmed by the problem and failed to introduce long-term plans for persuading the Afghans not to leave the country.
The Afghan government would not be able to curb the flow of people out of the country without considerably improving security and providing economic opportunities.
In his speech in Munich, President Ghani urged the EU to implement economic projects if they do not want the refugees to come to the European countries. Initially, most of Afghans leaving the country were youths while the trend has changed recently and now many of the refugees are families and women. This is highly due to the open routes to Europe and the pull factors of the destination countries. If the trend remains the same, the problem would further compound. Only eliminating the pull factors would help to curb the flow.
In order to prevent young Afghans leaving the country, the Afghan government needs to boost economic conditions of the Afghans. Generating more employments is the key for convincing many of the young Afghans to stay and pursue opportunities that would exist in the country. Eventually, the ongoing migration to foreign countries should be viewed as part of the bigger picture of the instability in the country which can be resolve only through resolution of the conflict in the country.