New EU-Afghanistan Joint Declaration on Migration
A renewed document called the 'Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation between Afghanistan and the EU' will shortly be approved by the Council of the EU. The aim of this document is to facilitate and increase deportations from EU member states to Afghanistan, despite a growing security threat to civilians in the country. The ongoing deportations from the EU member states, which have been conducted from 2016, have already been strongly criticised by the human rights NGOs, which continue to voice their concerns on the continuous security threat for the Afghan returnees.
The document has been negotiated for at least last six months, after the official expiration of a previous agreement - the ‘Joint Way Forward’ - in October 2020. The new agreement is set to last for an indefinite period, with a possibility of suspension, however only after yearly consultations. The new Declaration is planned to provide less protective safeguards, especially for vulnerable groups, and primarily proposes new measures to enable the EU member states deportation of Afghan citizens on a much larger scale, also embracing those individuals who could otherwise qualify for protection.
The definition of vulnerable groups has been restricted to:
1) the family unit including only parents with underage children
2) people with specific diseases that cannot be treated by the Afghan healthcare system.
Another provision introduced by the new Joint Declaration maintains that any EU member state is allowed to take part in joint deportations via non-scheduled flights, regardless of whether it has a bilateral readmission agreement with Afghanistan or not. The document stipulates that the max. number of individuals deported per flight is 50 and 500 per month, however these numbers can be changed and increased after consultations with Afghan authorities. Furthermore, the EU staff responsible for conducting the return operations will not be required to hold an Afghan visa under the condition that they will not enter the Afghan territory.
It is important to stress that the said document was presented and negotiated while the situation in Afghanistan was highly unstable, taking into account the crisis driven by COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the progressing deterioration of the Afghan state’s internal security. In spite of the peace agreement between the US government and the Taliban, signed in February 2020, the cease-fire has not taken place yet. Additionally, the second round of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, that began in January 2021, are not going any further as the Taliban demand from the government releasing even more prisoners and removing some of the individuals from the UN black list. Consequently, the Afghan civilians, being the primary target of the Taliban, are still living under a constant security threat, followed by rising poverty and unemployment. At the same time as the EU member states advise their own citizens to avoid travelling to Afghanistan due to the high risk of security threat, the document drafted and endorsed by the EU declares the same country to be safe for Afghan nationals seeking refuge in EU.
NIEM’s National Coalition Officer
The Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs