EU-Afghan agreement

Is Afghanistan a safe country? Luxembourg University hosts conference

Conference on ethno-religious conflicts and asylum policy concerning Afghanistan and the EU

Conference on ethno-religious conflicts and asylum policy concerning Afghanistan and the EU
Conference on ethno-religious conflicts and asylum policy concerning Afghanistan and the EU
Photo: Steve Eastwood

By Isabella Eastwood

A conference held at the University of Luxembourg reviewed  the implications of a recent agreement between the EU and Afghanistan. Organised by Key Area MIS – Migration and Intercultural Studies of the University of Luxembourg, and the platform “Afghanistan is not safe, Luxembourg” the conference took place on Belval campus on Tuesday.

The “Joint way forward on migration issues” agreement of Kabul from October 2, 2016 has acted as a catalyst towards discussing the current and future status of Afghanistan, migration policy and the intricate and tangled issues that surround integration, deportation and foreign aid.

Prof. Dr. Conrad Schetter
Prof. Dr. Conrad Schetter
Photo: Steve EASTWOOD

The paper proposes certain solutions that provoke both doubt and agreement. Generally speaking, it focuses on closer cooperation in order to achieve the safe return of “irregular migrants” back to Afghanistan.

Professor Doctor Conrad Schetter of the University of Bonn considered the ethnic past of Afghanistan, while Agnès Rausch, Honorary Counsellor of State and member of "Reech eng Hand", and Catherine Warin from the University of Luxembourg and president of "Passerell asbl", approached the Joint Way Forward agreement from a legal, political and discursive perspective.

Incredibly complex history

Prof. Schetter introduced the evening’s conference with an outline of the Ethnicization of Afghan politics. His summary of this incredibly complex history begins with the initial ethnic division between Pashtun and Balochs in 1893, British and foreign intervention, the growth of a national Pashtun voice and language in the 1920s-1930s, the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1970s, communism, fundamentalism, and multiple civil wars throughout the 1980s and 1990s and into the new millennium.

Considering the labyrinthine, interwoven multiplex of issues, the questions we face today concern the EU countries in terms of responsibility and support: welcoming and housing refugees, financial and foreign aid as well as deportation and re-migration measures.

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Professor Schetter also articulated the ambiguous role the UN had to play in the past decades, mistakenly “underlining ethnicity in politics” and in so doing, contributing the politicisation of ethnicity. The wars waged are “ideological: a war over people, hearts and minds” and the responsibilities of the UN therefore not only encompass, but go beyond short-sighted goals focused on finance aid.

Afghanistan - A safe country?

The concept of repatriation follows the assumption that Afghanistan is home to safe places. This engenders further discussion concerning the definition of a secure country, with Ms. Warin and Ms. Rausch highlighting the risk of compromising individual assessment by focusing on the fulfilment of certain “security” criteria.

Considering the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, this is especially difficult to gage. As Schetter points out, the circumstances are perpetually critical. The potential for civil war is imminent, the general life expectancy is low and levels of kidnapping and smuggling are on the rise.

Furthermore, while ethnicity is often an undercurrent in national Afghan politics, it’s the unquantifiable micro-level aggressions concerning ethnicity, beyond official policy and data that make the country unsafe.

In response to fears of standardisation, generalisation and jeopardising of asylum seeker assessments, Alain Bliss of Immigration Management and Serge Thill of the Service des Refugiés reassured Luxembourg’s continuous efforts to review situations on a case-by-case basis with specific asylum and immigration units.

Luxembourg not a popular destination

However, it is relevant to note that since Luxembourg is not a popular destination for Afghani refugees, the influx is still slow enough to manage. Thus, the Joint Way Forward agreement will likely have more serious impacts on countries such as Austria and Germany.

The conference was well-attended.
The conference was well-attended.
Photo: Steve EASTWOOD

The last stage of the conference saw moderator Ines Kurschat, Professor Doctor Harlan Koff, Jawid Modasir, an Afghan refugee, Prof. Schetter, Ms. Warin and Ms. Rausch considering and discussing sustainable solutions to a highly fragile and challenging situation.

While Prof. Schetter professed strong pessimism for Afghanistan’s future, Prof. Harlan Koff condemned simplistic policies that cannot cope with complex situations. Ms. Warin and Ms. Rausch highlighted the necessity for targeted policy concerning human trafficking and kidnapping, and the link between developmental aid and the return of migrants.

Although it is impossible to achieve perfect solutions, conferences like these fuel debates and innovative thinking. They also encourage discussion and the admission that work towards sustainable peace is never over.

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