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Europe

Poor Response to Repatriation Drive

As Afghanistan settles down to an uneasy calm months after the ousting of the repressive Taliban, efforts have begun in Germany to encourage some 8,000 exile Afghan citizens living in the country to go back.

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A changed world awaits exile Afghans in Kabul

The German Development Ministry (BMZ) is pumping two million euro into a project that envisions spurring about 200 highly qualified Afghan citizens to go back and work towards rebuilding their war-torn country especially in the political and development arena.

In addition the government - in co-operation with several development aid organisations - plans to get jobs in Afghanistan for a further 8,000 Afghan residents living in Germany.

They will receive financial support of a 100 euro monthly and retain the option of returning to Germany at any time. Afghan citizens who decide to go back permanently will receive a benefit of a maximum of 8,000 euro.

Further training programmes and financial aid for young start-ups in Afghanistan are also included in the project. The German Development Service is one of the organisations that will help to realise the ambitious project in Afghanistan.

A new boost to economy and democracy

The German government hopes to give a new impetus to the rebuilding of a fragile economy and political atmosphere in Afghanistan by injecting new skills and talent in the country.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

"Our aim is to make it clear that it’s worth having peace and not violence", said German Federal Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (photo) in Berlin on Tuesday as she introduced the new repatriation project.

But despite the ambitious project and lucrative offer, few Afghans in Germany have evinced interest so far.

Uncertainty gnaws at those contemplating going back

Most are deterred by what they see as an "uncertain future" in Afghanistan.

The war may be over, but reports of warring tribal groups and factional feuds jeopardising the political stability in the country still trickle in. International peacekeeping forces are stationed in Kabul and other parts of the country and the US fight against Al Qaeda fugitives still continues.

After years in exile in Germany, many Afghan citizens are also reluctant to give up their jobs, social security benefits and relatively high standards of living and head to a country that is still plagued by weak infrastructure and a barely functioning economy.

For women, the problem is further compounded by the possibility of losing much of the freedom and independence that they enjoy in the West. Under the fundamentalist Taliban, women were forced to wear the all-enveloping burqa and banned from studying.

Though things are said to have improved today, with women encouraged to go back to universities and have equal rights, the situation is not comparable with the West.

Poor response to lucrative offer

Of the 70,000 Afghans who currently live in Germany, only about 350 registered themselves in a data bank last week to go back. And many of them are still believed to be dithering.

One of the first ones to sign up was Samad Massoud, a trained electrician, who can soon go back to his home country and repair defect copy machines.

The small firm SCI plant in Berlin with support from the development organisation AGEP plans to build new companies in Afghanistan for such a repair service and selected Massoud for the job from a clutch of candidates.

He was reported to have told the news agency AFP that he wasn’t scared of going back, "just unsure".

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