AFGHANISTAN: Sharp rise in attempted illegal migration to Europe
KABUL, 4 June 2009 (IRIN) – Azizullah Ahmadi told IRIN in Kabul how his son Majid, aged 25, paid US$10,000 to a smuggler to take him to a European country where he wanted to start a better life. But his son drowned in the Mediterranean before reaching Greece in 2008.
“He was very disappointed here [in Afghanistan] and believed Europe would give him a prosperous life,” Ahmadi said, adding that his son had borrowed a lot of money for the trip.
Facing unemployment, insecurity and lack of socio-economic opportunities at home, many Afghans, mostly young males, have increasingly resorted to costly and perilous illegal migration to European and other industrialized countries.
Over 18,000 Afghan asylum-seekers were registered in 44 industrialized states in 2008 – a significant increase on previous years, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
“With 18,500 asylum applications submitted by Afghans in 2008, the number is at its highest since 2002 [29,400] and is almost double the figure of the year before [10,000],” said a UNHCR report entitled Asylum levels and trends in industrialized countries in 2008.
“The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan is likely to be the main reason, along with lack of economic opportunities,” Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva, told IRIN.
Some 80,000-85,000 Afghans applied for asylum in 2000-2001 but their numbers dropped significantly after a new US-backed government, which had inspired hope for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, was established in 2002.
Smuggling by air – more expensive
Illegal migration and human trafficking from the least developed countries to Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia have become more and more difficult and costly in the past seven years, largely because of stringent border controls.
“Before 9/11 smugglers were taking people by air to any European country for $8,000-10,000, but now prices have increased to $25,000-30,000 per person,” said Naqibullah (who only gave his first name), a local travel agent who also acts as an agent for illegal migrants.
However, nothing seems to be deterring some Afghans, mostly young males, who still pay thousands of dollars to smugglers and/or take the riskiest routes to get to their sought-after destinations.
On 29 May a ship carrying over a dozen of Afghan migrants from Indonesia to Australia capsized near Sumatra. Nine passengers were killed and 11 others were missing, Associated Press reported.
Migrants face trials and tribulations of all kinds: Some end up in prisons and/or border detention centres and reportedly have experienced serious physical and mental violence.
The UK appeared to be the most popular European Union (EU) destination, with 3,730 Afghan applicants seeking asylum in 2008, according to the Statistical Office of the European Commission. Turkey, Italy and Greece were the next most popular, according to the UNHCR report on asylum levels in industrialized countries.
About 12,600 Afghans sought asylum in EU countries in 2008 – the fifth largest group after Iraqis, Russians, Somalis and Serbs.
By contrast, the USA only had 72 Afghan asylum-seekers in 2008. Fewer still migrated illegally to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, apparently because of the cost of getting there (about $35,000 to fly to Canada) and/or geography.
Plea not to deport Afghans
It is unclear how many of the 18,500 Afghan asylum-seekers were granted protection in developed countries in 2008.
However, of the 240,000 asylum applicants (5 percent of them Afghans) registered in 27 EU member countries in 2008, at least 141,730 (73 percent) were rejected and only 24,425 applicants (13 percent) were granted refugee status, according to a statement by the Statistical Office of the European Commission.
At least 560 Afghans whose asylum applications were rejected in EU member countries were forced back to Afghanistan in 2008, according to the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees (MoRR). In addition, over 545 unsuccessful applicants voluntarily returned to Afghanistan from the EU last year.
“The situation in Afghanistan is not suitable and we call on European and other countries not to forcefully deport Afghan refugees,” Noor Mohammad Haidari, a senior MoRR adviser, told IRIN, adding that the government had requested all host countries to treat Afghans based on the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
MoRR estimates about 500,000 Afghan refugees live in EU countries and over three million in Pakistan and Iran.
Afghanistan: 20 Million People Under the Line of Poverty
Official statistics show that Afghanistan has the highest level of poverty among the South-Asian countries.Afghanistan is now one of the poorest countries on the planet. It takes its place among desperate, destitute nations like Burkina Faso and Somalia whenever any international organization bothers to measure. The official unemployment rate, last calculated in 2005, was 40% percent.
On the basis of the official statistics, the level of poverty in Afghanistan is thirty to forty percent and around 20 million of Afghanistan are living under the line of poverty.
According to recent estimates, it may today reach as high as 80% in some parts of the country.The UN has named the 17th of October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Different organizations hold programs every year to put an end to poverty in the world.
But the government of Afghanistan, despite the support of the International Community, has not been able to do something considerable for decreasing poverty.
Governmental authorities say that the shortage of food on one hand and drought in the past few years in several regions of Afghanistan on the other hand, have increased the intensity of poverty in Afghanistan.
“Urgent need for food”
Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the United Nations mission in Kabul, says that presently millions of people all over Afghanistan are in urgent need of food.
As said by Mr. Edwards, “The human conditions in Afghanistan are very serious. Continuous insecurity, drought and booming food prices on the world level are the main cause for the emergence of this situation but the condition in the future months is not tangible. There is no doubt that people are in dire need of food.”
Authorities in Afghanistan say that measures have been taken to prevent the spreading out of poverty in the country but according to experts these measures have not been effective.
Experts say that the absence of a proper program regarding the prevention of poverty and lack of attention to the superstructure of past years have brought about poverty and unemployment to many Afghans.
The tension for the rise of poverty in Afghanistan has increased in circumstances where drought and unemployment have greatly affected the lives of the people and have created scores of problems for them.
The coming of the winter season has concerned many people in this country.
Abdul Jamil, one of the residents of Kabul said that he has no job and that the approaching winter has greatly worried him.
Baz Mohammad, an employee of the National Bank of Afghanistan said that his monthly earnings is not enough for the expenses of his family and doesn’t know how he will overcome the difficulties of the cold in the winter.
This year the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is being celebrated with the slogan of “Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty”. Different sources agree that the abolishment of poverty needs the united struggle of all the poor as well as rich countries of the world.