Afghans fume over West’s double standards on refugees

Kabul, Mar 18 (EFE).- Afghanistan watches with chagrin the West opening its arms for Ukrainian refugees, seen culturally closer to the hosts, even as they denied asylum requests of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, forcing them to return to their war-battered country.

Images of emotional and generous welcomes offered to millions of fleeing Ukrainians, especially in Europe, have thrown into sharp relief the double standards of the West refugee policies for the Afghans, who have lived through four decades of continuous war.

“The discriminatory treatment of Afghans around the world is deplorable,” rights activist Zarifa Ghafari, the former mayor of Maidan Shahr, the capital of the eastern Wardak province, told EFE.

“The NATO and its allies, especially the European countries, have not only closed the borders to endangered Afghan refugees, but many Afghan allies of NATO are still stranded in camps in the UAE and Indonesia,” said Ghafari.

Ghafari said some Afghans who worked with foreign troops between 2001 and 2021 were facing such hardships in third countries that they were “accepting the risk and returning to Afghanistan.”

According to the International Organization for Migration, 1.5 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2021, with more than half of them deported. Others decided to come back “voluntarily.”

Ghafari recalled that the NATO forces had landed in Afghanistan to fight their war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“But 20 years later, they left the Afghans in the grip of a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.

The activist said the global response towards the Ukrainians was close to the ideal implementation of international human rights principles.

“Western countries have not only opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees, they also transported the refugees in their cars and housed them in their homes,” said Ghafari.

“But the racial and religious discrimination between the needy people of the world should end,” said the activist, calling out the West for using these identities as the barometer for differentiating between refugees.

Nahid Noor, a former Afghan employee of German international cooperation agency GIZ, shared her experiences as one of the thousands of locals left waiting for rescue.

“I worked in one of the sensitive assignments in (northern) Takhar province and received threats. I left for Kabul, but despite several attempts and applications, I still have not received any immigration support, and nor is there any way to leave the country,” she told EFE.

Thousands of desperate Afghans have fled to other countries using their resources, hoping to reach the West, but have not received the treatment they expected.

“I reached Greece in two months through very difficult ways. Some of the boys even died at the border of Turkey due to cold weather. We were arrested by the Greek police and returned to Turkey, and after a short jail term there I was deported,” Abdul Waris told EFE.

The current situation in Afghanistan, trapped between a severe humanitarian crisis and a fundamentalist Taliban regime, is worse than even the war for some, with escape appearing as the only option.

Journalist Neamatullah Habibi fled to neighboring Pakistan due to economic hardships, forced disappearances of reporters, and attacks on the press.

“For several months I have been in Islamabad without any budget and none of the organizations listen to me, I do not know what do to and where to go,” he told EFE.

A former Afghan worker of the United States Agency for Global Media said he witnessed attacks by the Taliban against those who collaborated with foreign troops.

“But there is no one to help us. No way to flee,” he said, speaking anonymously.

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