COVID-19 doubles the sufferings of Afghan asylum seekers

KABUL (SW) – The outbreak of coronavirus has doubled the sufferings of Afghan asylum seekers in many European countries.

Afghanistan is one of the countries where a large number of its citizens migrate irregularly due to insecurity, unemployment and lack of conducive living conditions.

Many Afghan citizens travel to European countries hoping to achieve a peaceful life through irregular migration. Many such citizens are not aware of the dangers of irregular immigration, and on top of that the asylum applications of many of them is rejected even after undergoing all the dangers of the thorny journey.

The problems of irregular migration are not limited to surviving under difficult circumstances in European countries, but the Afghan asylum seeker faces high chances of rejection of the asylum application, ambiguity about their fate and ultimate risk of returning to Afghanistan empty handed.

Amid the pandemic, most European countries have put a lot of restrictions on controlling the virus, which include curbs on free movement and job opportunities for asylum seekers. It means the asylum seekers struggle with unemployment, lack of access to health services and psychological problems.

Elias Mohammadi has been living in Sweden for several years. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, he was studying besides working in one of the country’s restaurants. But, with the restrictions and closure of the restaurants, he lost his job and is now unemployed.

“Before the coronavirus, I could work on the days off from studies, but now I am jobless, wherever I go they say no workers are needed because business are closed due to coronavirus,”, he said.

Commenting on this, Abdul Basit Ansari, media adviser at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, acknowledged that with the outbreak of the coronavirus and restrictions in some European countries, Afghan refugees were unable to continue their work as before.

According to him, in order to solve the problems of Afghan refugees, the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees has talked to the officials of the refugee offices in Europe and is trying to provide employment opportunities for a number of refugees in the country by implementing various programs.

“For them (asylum seekers) to be free, being able to freely choose a job and a career, of course there has been talks”, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only affected the lives of Afghan refugees in European countries, but also of those who were supposed to migrate to European countries irregularly.

Habib Akbari had planned to migrate to a European country a year ago due to security concerns and poverty in Afghanistan. However, he was unable to do so due to the closure of borders and changes in migration policies.

The surge in cases of migration of citizens has led the Afghan government, in cooperation with a number of international organizations, to establish Migration Information Center. Officials here said they have launched many public awareness programs to reduce and prevent irregular migration.

Shir Hossein Hunaryar, coordinator at the Migration Information Center, told Salam Watandar that at the time of the quarantine restrictions in the country, the center had continued its awareness programs.

“We are in touch with the people. We consult some 2,000 people in a month through various methods. It is natural that the consultation process has a positive effect and helped reduce irregular migration”, he said.

Officials from the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations said that since the beginning of 2021, about 347,000 people have returned to the country. Of these, 338,000 returned to Afghanistan from Iran and 4,200 from other countries.

Statistics from the ministry show that 860,000 Afghan refugees have returned to the country since the beginning of 2020, coinciding with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Officials at the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees say the number of returnees has risen with the outbreak of the coronavirus.