Don’t send Afghans back – an in-depth interview on why we need to march the 26th of May
From the demonstration in February 2018 – photo by author
Next Saturday on the 26th of May a demonstration for Afghan refugees will take place in different cities in The Netherlands. To get everyone up to date on why this demonstration is important and still necessary Ayla Bongaertz from The Feminist Club Amsterdam interviewed one of the people involved; So Roustayar.
Roustayar has been working as an activist for better refugee rights for over a decade and is also involved in the anti-racist, feminist and queer movement.
Could you give some background information on the situation in Afghanistan right now?
The situation is dire, there has been a continuous increase in terrorist attacks.
The war in Afghanistan has been going on for about 40 years now, mostly because of the interference of the West. Such as ‘The war on terror’ initiated by The United States in collaboration with the UK when Bush and Blair were still in power. Afterwards European countries got involved. They called it a ‘rebuilding mission’ but it was actually an invasion. The Netherlands was involved as well, with the promises of building schools and hospitals. However they only got involved when they had to, so in the end they helped more with control posts and less with rebuilding. The war has cost The United States over 1 trillion dollars and even double if you include the aftermath for veterans in the country.
This was going on in 2001, in the next 17 years, little has changed. In 2016 it was declared as one of the most dangerous countries in the world, right next to Syria. Attacks are frequent and the Taliban has control over several provinces. This so-called ‘War on terror’ hadn’t been won at all. Slowly more and more critical voices came forward saying the war should have never been fought. Meanwhile, the west considered the situation stable and tried to force democracy. They quickly realized that you can’t form a parliament without the Taliban taking part in it as there was no chance in defeating them.
A new president was elected who is busy rebuilding the country and making it independent. One of the ways he does this is by opening up conversations with surrounding countries again, instead of only working together with Western countries. Since 2015 over 242 thousand people have fled to Europe and 1,2 million to Iran and Pakistan. These countries are also deporting Afghan refugees, so while dealing with war Afghanistan also has to deal with thousands of refugees returning.
Almost weekly there is a news article mentioning another attack in mostly Kabul…
These attacks are almost always targeting civilians. They attack places like mosques and voting booths. The news pretends as if these attacks are only in Kabul but this is not true, they are all over the country.
How come European countries are sending back Afghan refugees while the country is still unsafe?
In 2016 the EU made a deal with Afghanistan called ‘Joint way forward”. For each refugee, the EU sends back Afghanistan receives money, around 1000 per person. We are talking about around 80 thousand Afghan refugees that had to flee because of the war and are now in danger of getting deported. This deal doesn’t take into consideration the individual circumstances of the refugees, such as; age, disability or sexuality. Which they sometimes do with refugees from other countries. Another large issue is that many Afghans were working for Western companies making them a target for the Taliban. Corruption makes it easy for the Taliban to find out who has been working for such companies and so some refugees that were sent back have been murdered already.
How come I haven’t heard of this deal before the start of this year?
The deal was made while they were also working on the Turkey-Eu deal. They made sure that it was kept out of the news. This way it was difficult for people to protest it. What the EU is doing is basically creating an invisible fort, instead of building walls it created a deal. This is all about money, paying the Afghan government 1000 euros for each refugee is way cheaper than housing them in the EU. This type of policy is based on Islamophobia and xenophobia. The nationalistic and right-wing political parties are gaining more power to create these deals. The whole ideology of parties like FvD and VVD is being applied to policies. They are not only saying ‘Keep the refugees out of Europe but creating policies to make it impossible for them to stay.
Roustayar during the last demonstration
What do you think the Dutch government should do?
First of all, they should withdraw from the deal they made with the EU and secondly they should listen to the human rights organisations such as Amnesty which has declared that there is a conflict in Afghanistan and thus it’s a human rights violation to send people back. We need a policy to make sure refugees receive their right to stay in the EU.
Has there been any change in the political climate on this topic?
More and more municipalities have submitted motions to stop the deportations of Afghans in their municipality. For example, in Rotterdam, they accepted the motion to stop deporting Afghan refugees. Rotterdam has its own airport so this would mean no refugees could be flown back from there as well. In reality, every week Afghans have been deported from Rotterdam. In Germany, pilots have actually stepped in and declined to fly when Afghan refugees were on board. And I hope pilots from KLM will do the same.
You are a part of the political party Bij1, what is the next move for your party? We are working on an initiative, which will hopefully become a motion so that Amsterdam will also not assist in the deportation of Afghan refugees. We really hope it will become a hype for municipalities to change their policies so that the government is forced to change their national policy and withdraw from the EU deal.
What do you think will happen if nothing is done?
Families are already being forced into the streets, which is already happening to teenage refugees. Eventually, there will be a situation not unlike that of We are Here which are forced to squat houses so they have a roof over their head. We should really focus on creating a situation for them where they can work on a future in the Netherlands and live inhumane conditions. Don’t forget that these people have been traumatized in their own country and are now again traumatized by what they go through when being sent back.
This deal is literally sending people to their deaths, it’s a violation of basic human rights.
The demonstration on the 26th of May will be organized by; Amnesty, De Goede Zaak and Don’t send Afghans back. It will start at 2 PM at the Dam square.
Interested in knowing more about the situation in Afghanistan? Here are some resources:
Cost of Afghanistan War: Timeline, Economic Impact
Joint Way Forward’ Deal Does Not Lead to Peace or Progress for Afghans
ESCAPE AGAIN: Afghan refugees deported from Germany are forced to flee a second time to save their lives
How big a mess is the war in Afghanistan?(how badly is the US messing up)