Central & South Asia

Afghan minister grilled over migrant rights

Afghans protest in front of parliament as Refugees and Repatriation minister questioned by parliament over corruption.

Last updated: 09 Nov 2013 21:15
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Protesters, many of them deported migrants, allege government has done little for them [Ali Latifi/Al Jazeera]

Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, Jamaher Anwari, has appeared before the nation's parliament to address allegations of widespread corruption within the ministry.

Anwari survived a vote of no confidence on Saturday called for by 56 member of parliaments over claims of embezzlement of ministry funds.

Outside the parliament building, a small crowd held a demonstration against the policies of the ministry, particularly deportation of Afghan migrants.

"Rather than helping Afghan refugees, he is focusing on his own pockets," Abdul Ghafoor, who himself had been deported from Norway, said of Anwari.

The crowd of three dozen protesters was joined by five parliamentarians, including Ramazan Bashardost and Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, representatives from Kabul province.

Bashardost, who came in third in the 2009 presidential elections, accused the government of turning a blind eye to the plight of the nation's estimated 2.7 million migrants across 82 countries.

"The foreign minister must go to Australia and make it clear that there is a war threatening the lives of Afghans," Bashardost said in reference to Canberra's "Stop the Boats" policies which dictate that any asylum-seeker arriving by boat must be transferred to another country while their case was under review.

Bashardost also criticised the President Hamid Karzai administration for signing memorandums of understanding that would authorise deportations rather than agreements that would enable Afghans to work abroad.

"Europe, Australia and the United States all need migrants. Their labour forces depend on it, unfortunately, our leaders — whether it be MPs, senators, ministers or the president himself - are not working to create the kinds of policies that would allow for these people to become breadwinners for their families," Bashardost said.

Physically abused 

Naderi, appearing with MPs from Herat and Badakhshan provinces by her side, said she would raise the demands of the protesters to Anwari.

At the start of the parliamentary session, Naderi referenced the story of Ali Karimi, who said he was beaten and shot at by guards at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation shortly after his April 2013 deportation from Denmark.

Upon his return to Kabul, Karimi, who was born as a refugee in neighbouring Iran, said Anwari's guards physically abused him when he approached the ministry for help in obtaining a tazkireh, national ID card.

Afghan MP Ramazan Bashardost came to support the crowd [Ali Latifi/Al Jazeera]

Though he had documents from Copenhagen stating he was Afghan, Karimi said his Afghan identity was first questioned, and then dismissed by the ministry.

"They said you aren't even Afghan and began to beat me and fire shots in my direction," Karimi told the crowd.

"Why didn't they send me to China or to India or anywhere else in the world? Why would they send me here if I wasn’t Afghan?"

Said Hasan, who was deported from Denmark after two years in the Scandinavian nation, said Danish officials assured him and other migrants that an agreement between Kabul and Copenhagen stated that upon return, the deportees would receive help for procuring "work, land and education".

However, Hasan said he received little assistance from the ministry.

Addressing the difficulties of Afghan refugees in Iran, Leila Haidari, who runs a drug treatment centre in western Kabul, said many Afghans return from the Islamic Republic addicted to heroin and other drugs.

"Everyday there are suicide bombings and IED blasts, it is not safe for these people, but still they are forced to return. I have seen many of them [in my treatment centre], they all say 'we got hooked in Iran.'"

Speaking at the end of the protest, Naderi, the MP from Kabul, said it was a welcome sight to see so many Afghans inside the country taking up the cause of their brothers abroad.

Though she supported the demonstration, Naderi urged the Afghan youth not to succumb to "propaganda" surrounding the 2014 international troop withdrawal.


Al Jazeera
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