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Posts Tagged ‘Nangarhar Province’

Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents

Posted by African Press International on August 21, 2013

Many Afghan children face deportation when caught overseas

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Thousands of Afghan minors seek EU asylum
  • Unemployment risk as international troops pull out
  • Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents
  • Conflict, displacement could affect next generation

NANGARHAR,  – Six years ago, when Najib* was 15, Taliban fighters came to his home in Shinwar District* in the eastern province of Nangarhar telling him to join them. After repeated visits, his family sought a way for Najib to escape, and paid a smuggler to take him to the UK.

Six years on, he has just arrived back in his village, having been deported from the UK, but the threats to get him to join the Taliban are now greater than ever, he says.

“They’re not like the Taliban that were in the area before,” Najib told IRIN. “They are all foreign fighters who have come from the mountains. These guys will just kill you for no reason.”

Najib is not the only one on the move or considering his options: Growing insecurity ahead of the pull-out of international forces is driving thousands of Afghanistan’s children to seek new lives outside the country.

Of the 893,700 claims submitted in 2012, around 21,300 were for “unaccompanied or separated” children, most from Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). That is the highest figure recorded since the UN started counting (in 2006).

According to a European Commission memo, Afghan unaccompanied minors, particularly boys, have become the largest group of unaccompanied minors from outside the European Union (EU) in Europe over the past few years. Of the 12,225 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers recorded by European national governments in 2011, 5,655 (46 percent) were from Afghanistan.

Mohammad Akram’s son, Mohammad Yahya, from Qarghayo District in Nangarhar Province, left Afghanistan when he was 15.

Refugee info (2012)
10.5 million Refugees worldwide
893,700 Asylum claims
21,300 Claims by “unaccompanied or separated” children
2.6 million Afghanistan refugees overseas
5.7 million Afghan migrant and refugee returns since 2001
Source: UNHCR

“Some of his classmates left Afghanistan and then when they arrived in Belgium they called him, pressuring him to come,” Akram told IRIN. “Finally my son left.”

In Turkey’s port city of Izmir, the 15-year-old found smugglers to take him to an island off Greece. The cost was US$2,000, to be paid upon arrival. Yahya never arrived; on the way the boat capsized killing all but two of its 30 passengers. His body was never found.

“We have been waiting for two months. One or two bodies turn up every day, but not my son’s,” said Akram, crying.

“It is extremely sad to see the kind of dangers these people are getting into when they are crossing waters,” the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, Bo Schack, told IRIN. “There are major issues that they face along the journey. And, when they arrive there are sometimes issues of violence and sexual abuse against them at the asylum centres.”

Major refugee source

Afghanistan has 2.6 million refugees overseas, according to UNHCR, making it the leading source of refugees in the world, a position it has held for the past 32 years.

On average one in four refugees are from Afghanistan; 95 percent of them live in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. Germany hosts the largest population of Afghans outside the region.

Insecurity and unemployment back home remain high; according to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MOLSAMD), four million Afghans are officially unemployed countrywide, and the real number is almost certainly far higher.

Thirty-six percent of the country’s population cannot meet their basic needs, with many more Afghans “highly susceptible” to poverty, according to a World Bank report.

And as international troops and organizations downsize, they take with them jobs that currently employ many of the country’s young people.

Mohammad Yahya’s siblings remember their brother, 15, who drowned, on his way to seek asylum in Greece

“Around 40,000-50,000 young Afghans who speak English and are good at computers work with NATO troops. When the troops leave, they will be jobless and it’s risky for them to stay in the country because they worked for foreigners,” the head of Interpol in Afghanistan, Gen Aminullah Armarkhel, told IRIN.

“The most capable young Afghans with university degrees can’t find jobs… then you have unqualified people filling positions. This is why we are seeing an increase of young people leaving the country.”

Afghans told IRIN human smugglers ask anywhere from $10,000-20,000 for a passage to Europe. However, as in Yahya’s case, there is no guarantee anyone will make it alive.

Upon arrival

Last year in the UK, a Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) reportfound that hundreds of children travelling unaccompanied to the UK received inadequate support from the state.

Upon arrival, children faced intensive interviews. The report criticized the lack of interpreters to help with translation, inappropriate accommodation, staff ill-equipped to care for traumatized children, and concerns over educational services.

Also, earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found Italy summarily sending unaccompanied children (and adult asylum seekers) back to Greece – a country in which asylum system and detention conditions have led several EU states to suspend their transfers to the country.

According to the HRW report, most of the asylum seekers interviewed were Afghan boys “fleeing danger, conflict, and poverty”.

Unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking adolescents living in the UK are a high-risk group for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with many having been exposed to extreme violence, physical and sexual abuse, and rape.
Teenage migrants “trapped” in Greece

By early evening, Alexandra Park in central Athens starts to fill up with young, male migrants. They gather on benches, and some even kick a ball around, but they are not here for recreation – this is where they sleep, hoping their numbers will provide some protection from sexual predation and racist attacks. full report

The children experience significantly greater symptoms of PTSD and depression compared to accompanied asylum-seeking children, found a new study which looked at the sleeping patterns of unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking children.

Returnees at risk

Many returning Afghan child migrants and refugees face the risk of rejection by their families, kidnapping threats, beatings and exploitation, often resulting in them trying to escape the country again, according to a Maastricht University report.

“I’m scared to go back to my village in Shinwar,” Najib told IRIN just prior to returning to his village. “Of course all the villagers know I was in London. My life is in danger. Kidnappers will think my family has money and because I speak English the Taliban will suspect me.”

Najib said that when his asylum application was denied in the UK, the immigration authorities told him Shinwar District was peaceful and it was safe for him to return.

Hostel idea

A new initiative to improve reintegration prospects for deported, unaccompanied children in Afghanistan is being considered by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK.

It involves the setting up of a hostel for such children in Kabul, where they can stay until either they are picked up by their families, or where they can stay until they turn 18.

Nearly all Afghans – 96 percent, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross – have been affected in some way by the ongoing armed conflict, with 76 percent having experienced displacement.

Around 43 percent of the population is under 15: the ill-effects of conflict and displacement will have a strong impact on the next generation of adults.

*not a real name

bm/jj/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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reintegration scheme in the spotlight

Posted by African Press International on June 10, 2013

KUNDUZ,  – A process of voluntary disarmament and reintegration of ex-combatants, the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP), has been under way since 2010, but in the absence of a wider settlement, how successful can it hope to be?

APRP aims to reintegrate low level fighters, while simultaneously reconciling top commanders with the government through political dialogue, according to the US Institute for Peace.

In return for renouncing violence and accepting the Afghan constitution, ex-fighters are promised reintegration into their communities, assistance with education and vocational training, and a degree of protection and security.

The formal reintegration scheme is implemented by APRP and its High Peace Council (appointed by President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with elements of the Taliban). NGOs and international organizations support APRP through things like programme monitoring, capacity development, study/analysis, and project implementation.

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), as of May, 6,840 fighters have been reintegrated under the scheme.

The APRP guide says the programme “is anchored in the reality that most Afghan insurgents are fighting in or near their communities, and only a minority is ideologically motivated”.

According to UNDP, the scheme uses three approaches: outreach/negotiations, reintegration/demobilization and community recovery.

All enrolled “reintegrees” are given various types of assistance – for example a transitional assistance package provides US$120 per month for 3-6 months. Most also work on community projects in their districts and villages.

Training and employment opportunities vary, depending on the specific programmes being implemented in the area, and personal interest. In Chardara (Kunduz Province), for example, an area known for carpet-making and agriculture, anti-government fighters and their family members learn to weave, and study agriculture and mechanics. Each family member is given 4,900 Afghanis ($90) a month for attending the project.

Scepticism

Some observers are sceptical about the scheme and whether the provision of material support can really change mindsets.

According to researchers Andrew Garfield and Alicia Boyd working for the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), the main motivating factor for anti-government fighters taking up arms against the government is not money but opposition to the “Western presence, values, and influence over the Afghan government, as well as the perceived severe shortcomings of the Afghan government itself.”

“Reintegration offers money or other material incentives, and this is not the main – or sole – motive of many insurgents. I had the feeling that the `ten-dollar Talib’ was a psychological warfare invention,” Thomas Ruttig from the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) told IRIN.

There is also a question mark over who is joining the scheme.

Several “reintegrees” told IRIN that former-fighters who joined APRP for money were not considered “real Taliban”.

“It seems that the largest figures of `reintegrees’ were generated in peripheral provinces, and often, if not in their majority, the fighters were not Taliban, but Hezbis or members of other freelance illegal armed groups, also including people linked to some of the organizers,” said Ruttig.

Project woes

The process of delivering projects on the ground has been a major challenge, according to an AAN report. Only $63 million of the more than $176 million set aside for the programme has been spent so far.

Long delays in project implementation and lack of an accountability strategy in vocational projects were just several problems mentioned.

Waheedullah Rahmani, spokesperson of the High Peace Council in Kunduz, said at the provincial level, directorates struggle to implement projects, which results in donors rejecting extension requests.

The principle of the reintegration initiative, common elsewhere in the world, is to allow ex-fighters to create a new, peaceful basis for earning a livelihood in their communities.

Rahmani said the High Peace Council has been able to provide some employment opportunities from the projects for reintegrees. “Dashti Archi District provided work for 272 fighters who joined the peace process. And last year at least 1,000 men worked in agricultural projects. Some of these people then merged into the Afghan Local Police forces.”

However, the AAN report found that few were able to find lasting sources of income after the training, and two thirds of the small business start-ups failed.

Threats

Several men said that before joining the reintegration process, the only option had been to continue fighting. “Now I understand this is my country and I should help my people,” said a 23-year-old ex-fighter from Baghlan, who preferred anonymity.

“But I am not happy with the Afghan government because when I first joined the peace process they arrested and threatened me. Why did they treat me like this? I came for peace, not for battle.”

Complaints regarding security from low-level fighters are widespread. In eastern Nangarhar Province, one former anti-government fighter was forced to move his family from the village to the city after constant death threats.

Commander Behru from Kunduz received threats not only from the Taliban, but also government-backed militia known as “arbakai”.

“I receive calls from my close friends; the other night [a] mullah called me. He said to me `Behru, we were very close friends, and then you went and became an infidel.’ I know we are Muslims, but now they see us as infidels, and they will not let me live.”

Debatable impact

APRP is due to continue until 2015 and currently around 841 fighters are negotiating to enter the programme, with reports also that several anti-government groups are expressing interest.

A recent study on public awareness of the scheme by UNDP suggested most Afghans had heard of the process.

As to the impact of the scheme, the jury is still out.

“The reintegration programme might have weakened the insurgency here and there in some provinces, but apparently nowhere to an extent that it really made a large difference,” said Ruttig.

UNDP has identified things that can be improved in the scheme, for example the use of more experienced staff in project oversight and implementation teams, and better coordination between partner organizations and stakeholders.

But the fundamental challenge for any such reintegration scheme is the ongoing conflict.

The Garfield and Boyd study found the anti-government groups deeply committed to their fight, including a strong commitment to carry on fighting the current regime.

bm/jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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