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Afghan govt, EU agree to fight human trafficking

AT-KABUL: Afghan government and the European Union (EU) have agreed to fight human trafficking and launch a nationwide awareness campaign in Afghanistan to discourage illegal immigration to the EU member countries.

Fighting human trafficking one of the key points of the “Joint Way Forward” agreement signed between the Afghan government and the EU. The agreement was signed after six months of negotiations which provides a comprehensive framework for the future cooperation on return, readmission and reintegration.

According to the agreement, the EU will enhance its efforts to support the Afghan government in tackling trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling. “Such assistance should include capacity-building for law enforcement agencies, as well as specific support for drafting and enacting effective legislation on migrant smuggling. Concrete proposals will be jointly developed by the EU and the Afghan side in parallel with the beginning of the cooperation under this declaration,” says the Joint Way Forward or JWF.

The JWF is not intended to create legal rights or obligations under international law. It paves the way for a structural dialogue and cooperation on migration issues, based on a commitment to identify effective ways to address the needs of both sides. “It comes in support of the EU member states bilateral relations with Afghanistan and cannot be interpreted as superseding the existing or preventing the conclusion of future bilateral agreements between the EU Member States and Afghanistan,” the EU said.

The JWF identifies a series of actions to be taken as a matter of urgency by the EU and Afghan government with the objective to establish a rapid, effective and manageable process for a smooth, dignified and orderly return of Afghan nationals who do not fulfill the conditions in force for entry to, presence in, or residence on the territory of the EU, and to facilitate their reintegration in Afghanistan in a spirit of cooperation.

“In their cooperation under this declaration, the EU and Afghanistan remain committed to all their international obligations, in particular; • respecting the provisions of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 New York Protocol; • upholding the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; • respecting the safety, dignity and human rights of irregular migrants subject to a return and readmission procedure,” says the JWF.

Afghan government and the EU have also agreed to launch a “High Level Dialogue on Migration” in order to step up their cooperation on addressing and preventing irregular migration, and on return of irregular migrants.

According to the JWF, to prevent further irregular migration from Afghanistan and to create conditions conducive to the sustainable reintegration of Afghan returnees, the concerned Afghan authorities would take the necessary measures to sensitize the population to the dangers of irregular migration, including through information and awareness raising campaigns. The EU will contribute to finance such information campaigns.

The EU and Afghan government would also cooperate closely to ensure that Afghan nationals present in the EU are provided with objective and accurate information regarding their return and reintegration in Afghanistan, to allow for decisions to return to be taken in full knowledge of the facts. “To this effect, the EU and its Member States, together with relevant inter-governmental or non-governmental organizations, will carry out information campaigns targeted at Afghan communities in the EU,” says the JWF.

In order to facilitate the return process, the EU side would ensure that every Afghan returning to Afghanistan on a voluntary or non-voluntary basis in line with the EU and international laws is in possession of a recognized valid travel document, such as an “Afghan passport, an Afghan travel document or the EU standard travel document for return”.

When the person to be returned has no valid passport, the Afghan competent authority will ensure that a passport or a travel document is issued no later than four weeks following the request made by the Member State.

Based on the JWF, prior to returning Afghan nationals, the EU side will give fair consideration to humanitarian aspects in accordance with international law to unaccompanied minors, single women and women who are head of their families, family unity, elderly and seriously sick people. Special measures will ensure that such vulnerable groups receive adequate protection, assistance and care throughout the whole process. Unaccompanied minors are not to be returned without successful tracing of family members or without adequate reception and care-taking arrangements having been put in place in Afghanistan.

“When the Member State has evidence of the nationality of the person to be returned, the Afghan authorities will make every effort to verify the evidence and issue a passport or a travel document within two weeks. When the travel document has not been issued within these time limits, the Member State may issue the EU standard travel document for return,” the JWF says.

To facilitate the return and readmission of Afghan nationals, EU nations may use scheduled or non-scheduled flights to Kabul airport (in existing designated facilities) and any other specified Afghan airports as mutually agreed, including joint flights returning Afghan nationals from several EU member states organized and coordinated by Frontex.

Both sides will explore the possibility to build a dedicated terminal for return in Kabul airport and express their willingness to carry out nonscheduled flights at the best convenient times. The EU Member States understand that there should be a limitation to the number of non-voluntary returnees to 50 per flight in the first six months following the signature of this declaration.

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