01 October 2020
The EU is moving toward renewal of the 'Joint Way Forward with Afghanistan', an informal agreement that facilitates the deportation of Afghans present in the EU. A secret document from July, published here, sets out the member states' demands to the Commission for the renewed agreement. It includes a call for "the notion of vulnerable groups" to be "limited", which would ease the deportation of people who may otherwise qualify for protection.
See: Extension of the Joint Way Forward on Migration Issues between Afghanistan and the EU (9233/20, 3 July 2020, LIMITE, pdf, emphasis added):
"...delegations consider that the Commission should take into consideration the following general principles in the course of upcoming negotiations with the Afghan government:
– Member States should continue to be able to issue EU standard travel documents when no travel document is provided by Afghan authorities (Part II, point 2, of the JWF).
– The two-week deadline for issuing travel documents when Member States have evidence of the nationality of the person to be returned should be upheld (Part II, point 2, of the JWF).
– The possibility of conducting non-scheduled flights without limitation of frequency should remain (Part II, point 3, of the JWF).
– Visa requirements for escort staff should be lifted as far as possible (part II, point 5, of the JWF).
– Afghan authorities should be made aware that the JWF allows for vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied minors, to be returned after giving fair consideration to humanitarian aspects (Part I, point 4, of the JWF). If possible, the scope of the notion of vulnerable groups should be limited.
- Member States should have greater flexibility when communicating flight and passenger data to Afghan authorities and should be entitled to modify the list of returnees at short notice (Part II, point 4, of the JWF).
– Existing and future bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between Member States and Afghanistan should not preclude the application of the JWF. In particular, Member States with such an MoU should be entitled to carry out joint return operations under the JWF."
The demand to facilitate the removal of vulnerable groups flys in the face of the demands of human rights organisations. In a statement published in September, some 40 groups called on the EU and its member states to:
"Halt forced returns to Afghanistan due to the security situation in the country and the challenge of reintegration for returnees from Europe and theneighbouringregion. In particular, vulnerable groups and Afghans who were born and grew up outside of Afghanistan should not be “returned”."
See: Afghanistan is not safe: the Joint Way Forward means two steps back (link to pdf)
As highlighted in the recent Statewatch report Deportation Union, following the adoption of the Joint Way Forward in 2016, the number of forced returns to Afghanistan coordinated and financed by Frontex mushroomed:
"In December 2016 a further three flights (from Sweden, Germany and Finland) departed for Kabul. A total of 53 people were deported to Afghanistan via Frontex flights in 2016. That number increased six-fold in 2017 (to 314) and grew again in 2018 (to 495)."
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