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Why repatriated Afghans want to go back to Europe

A deal between the Afghan government and the EU mandates Kabul to take back asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected by the European countries. But many returnees are already planning to go back to Europe.

Mirwais was repatriated to Afghanistan by Norwegian authorities about two months ago, but the resident of the eastern Nangarhar province is already preparing for yet another long and hazardous trip back to Europe.

"I will not stay in Afghanistan. I had spent all my money on my first trip, but I will borrow more from someone and leave for Europe again with my family," Mirwais told DW.

Mirwais is not the only Afghan deportee from a European country who is looking for ways to go back to Europe. Yusuf is another Afghan determined to leave the war-torn country as soon as possible.

"We cannot have a normal life here," he said, adding that he was ready to take the risk to start a "normal life" in a European country.

Grenze Iran Afghanistan afghanische Flüchtlinge Abschiebung (picture-alliance/Ton Koene)

The asylum seekers insist their country is not safe for them

Earlier this month, Afghanistan and the European Union struck a deal which mandates Kabul to take back all Afghan migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected by the European governments. The asylum seekers insist that their country is not safe for them, but the EU countries, including Germany, say that there are "safe zones" within Afghanistan where all the deported migrants will be sent to. The EU says it has received assurances from the Afghan government that it will provide housing and job opportunities to the returnees.

Taliban advances

Mirwais and Yusuf, however, claim the government has not offered any help so far.

"I went to a government office but the officials told me that I needed to protect myself," said Mirwais.

The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating as Islamist groups like the Taliban have taken control of more areas across the country than previously. This, according to Yusuf and Mirwais, put their lives at risk.

"Everybody knows what is happening in Afghanistan. This country is not safe for anyone," Mirwais said, referring to the latest Taliban assaults in various Afghan provinces.

A 'controversial' deal

EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made the EU-Afghan migration deal public in a two-day conference on Afghanistan in Brussels on October 4-5.

Afghanistan Kämpfe gegen Taliban in Kundus (Reuters/N. Wakif)

The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating

Prior to the meeting, a leaked confidential EU paper from March showed the European authorities had planned to return some 80,000 Afghan asylum seekers to their home country. Critics say that President Ghani's government agreed to take back the Afghans from the EU in exchange for 1.2 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in development and reconstruction aid.

The EU and the Afghan government reject claims that there is any link between the aid pledges and the migrant agreement.

But the deal remains extremely unpopular among migrants, with rights activists saying that deported migrants could face threats to their lives in Afghanistan.

A statement by Kabul's civil society members said the Afghan authorities are already struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, thus they won't be able to work for the welfare of the returnees.

"Life will be difficult for all those who are being sent back to Afghanistan," the statement reads.

Activists also question the effectiveness of the deal. Civil society campaigner Abdul Ghafur Rafye believes many repatriated Afghans will leave for Europe again as soon as they can fund their trip.

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