Afghan refugees between hammer and anvil, one year after Taliban takover

Research maps out dire situation of Afghan refugees in Turkey

A new report by the Flemish umbrella for international solidarity 11.11.11 and the Dutch research platform Upinion paints an alarming picture of the situation of Afghan refugees in Turkey. The mood in the country towards their presence is becoming increasingly grim. At the same time, they cannot return to Afghanistan where an unseen humanitarian disaster is unfolding. One year after the Taliban seized power, 11.11.11 calls for specific measures to help Afghan refugees.

Unprecedented humanitarian disaster

The human rights situation in Afghanistan is dramatic. The judicial system was pushed aside and replaced by an arbitrary system with extrajudicial disappearances, corporal punishment and executions. Women and girls are especially hard hit with restrictions on freedom of movement, exclusion from secondary and higher education, and mandatory face coverings.

Economically, things are also particularly bad. Even before the fall of the government, an estimated 90% of Afghans were living on an income of less than $2 per day. Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, the economy shrank by another 40% or so. By the end of this year, an estimated 97% of Afghans will fall below the poverty line. More than half of the population faces extreme hunger. The grain crisis brought on by the Ukraine war is putting additional pressure.

In Afghanistan itself, all parameters are alarming. The human rights situation is dramatic and more than half of the population faces extreme hunger.

Pushbacks and violence

In other countries, the climate is hardening for Afghan refugees. At the external borders of the EU, illegal and violent pushbacks against (including Afghan) refugees are now standard policy. The EU and its member states are responsible for this systematic failure to enforce respect for the most basic human rights. Elsewhere, too, escape routes are increasingly blocked by force.

In Turkey, too, repression is increasing. Already this year, more than 18,000 people have been forcibly returned to Afghanistan from detention centers across the country. This is happening in part from centers that were funded with EU aid. People cannot make contact with a lawyer or family during this process. In many cases violence and torture were documented. Fear is increasing among the Afghan community in the country. Many people live in hiding and no longer dare to show up at their workplace or other public places.

No access to assistance programs

Since the Taliban takeover, Turkey has had a general ban on registration for people from Afghanistan. Without registration, they have no access to protection, employment, health care and other services. What is striking about this is that they have virtually no access to EU-funded aid programs, which are largely aimed at the large group of Syrian refugees in the country.

11.11.11 and Upinion's survey of 110 Afghans in Turkey brings their hopeless situation into focus:

  • Half of those surveyed fear forced return.
  • 20% were victims of pushbacks at the Turkish border.
  • 78% indicate that they are not allowed to leave their place of residence.
  • 64% report not being able to meet basic needs.
  • Borrowing money is the main source of income, more important than income from work. One in ten have family members under 18 who work.
  • None of those surveyed indicate receiving financial support from the UN, NGOs or the EU.
  • 54% want to travel to a European country. Only 22% plan to stay in the same place for the next six months. 4% plan to return to Afghanistan.
I have been in Turkey for two months now. The Turkish police were waiting for us at the border. Twice they put us across the border into Iran. We were beaten and tortured in the process." - Afghan participant

11.11.11 is asking Belgium to join other EU member states in taking diplomatic action against the increasing number of forced expulsions and to show solidarity with the Afghan people. The organization asks the Belgian government to accommodate vulnerable Afghans in our country. This can be done through humanitarian visas and through the resettlement program. In Belgium itself the government should respect the right to asylum and shelter. In the EU context, Belgium must ensure that European support for the reception of refugees in Turkey also reaches Afghans and other refugees. Moreover, the illegal pushbacks at the external borders of the EU must stop and everyone must have the right to apply for asylum. The management of the external borders must be possible without violations of human rights.

"The support we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban takeover, with evacuations to Belgium among others, has largely dried up. The result is that Afghan refugees find themselves between a hammer and anvil. In Afghanistan itself, an unprecedented humanitarian disaster is unfolding. In other countries, Afghans are increasingly facing closed doors." - Els Hertogen, director of 11.11.11:

Header: An Afghan family is detained by Turkish security forces in a migrant processing centre in the border city of Van, Turkey. 2021 © REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Report_Between a rock and a hard place_2022_11.11.11.pdf

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Kenny  Van Minsel

Kenny Van Minsel

Persverantwoordelijke - press officer, 11.11.11



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