Ten years after the fall of the Taliban and the intervention of the international community in Afghanistan, Afghans continue to be the most exiled people in the world. In 2010, three out of ten refugees in the world were originating from Afghanistan. Disillusioned and dispirited from a peace that never comes, Afghans are on exile’s road again.
Greece, Europe’s first entry point from the East is receiving the biggest numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, with Afghans, of course, topping the list of nationalities in need of international protection.
Greece has been condemned by almost all international human rights organizations for the most dysfunctional asylum system in Europe, non-existent refugee reception procedures and human rights violations. Meanwhile, a problematic and immature European asylum policy based on the notion of ‘first country of asylum,’ whereby asylum-seekers are returned to the first European country they were registered, has resulted in thousands of people being trapped in a state of limbo. Unable to move either forwards or backwards and often completely unaware of their rights, laws and procedures, they get stuck in a stalemate where every attempt to escape is dragging them even deeper into destitution.
Afghans in Greece are sad victims of this parody. Thousands have been waiting for their cases to be examined for too long, sometimes more than 10 years, all this time remaining in the country with very limited rights and no support. In a desperate attempt, many resorted to hunger – striking to gain a status and the respect that was never shown to them. Even more are hiding, staying under the radar in the hope that they will manage to reach another European country without being arrested. Families with children are walking miles to get to the next city, sleeping in parks and public squares, often chased away by local residents. Against the current backdrop of dire economic crisis that is shaking the Greek society to the bones, intolerance is growing dangerous among the local population. Afghans are more than often victims of racist attacks that are now happening on a daily basis, and are tolerated by the police. Attackers hit indiscriminatively everybody, men, women, children, and even old people.
While the economic crisis has turned the world’s eyes to Greece with millions of aid flowing in, this humanitarian disaster is deepening day by day, largely underestimated by the international community.