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Afghanistan asks for Aid from European Donors to keep Afghan Migrants at Home

High unemployment combined with growing insecurity drove nearly 200,000 Afghans to Europe last year, exacerbating the global migrant crisis

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(Representative image) FILE - Refugees and migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, walk toward the transit center for refugees near the northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, after being returned from Serbia, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA

October 4, 2016: Afghanistan is appealing to European donors to open their wallets at an international donors’ conference Wednesday, arguing that jobs created through development projects will help stem the tide of migrants that is destabilising the European continent.

High unemployment combined with growing insecurity drove nearly 200,000 Afghans to Europe last year, exacerbating the global migrant crisis.

European nations have struggled to cope with the flood of young Afghan asylum seekers and exerted pressure on Afghanistan to roll back the human exodus.

FILE - Afghan women wash and dry their clothes in Piraeus, near Athens, March 8, 2016. VOA
FILE – Afghan women wash and dry their clothes in Piraeus, near Athens, March 8, 2016. VOA

“If we hesitate to address the migration issue, public opinion in European countries will change, and this could impact aid,” Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s finance minister, told Afghan lawmakers Sunday.

Salahuddin Rabbani, the Afghan foreign minister, added that European nations have warned Afghanistan that it risked a reduction in aid if it did not act on migration.

[bctt tweet=”European nations have struggled to cope with the flood of young Afghan asylum seekers and exerted pressure on Afghanistan to roll back the human exodus.” username=””]

“The migrant crisis has changed politics in the host countries,” Rabbani told members of Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament. “They have put forward strict immigration laws and repeatedly asked Afghanistan to take responsibility for its asylum seekers.”

Afghan officials say they can stop the migration to Europe, but they need international support to create jobs that will keep the youth in the country.

Support for Afghanistan

The two officials are accompanying President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah to the Brussels conference where Afghanistan will present its new national peace and development framework — a five-year reform, governance and economic development plan.

FILE - An Afghan refugee jumps the fence as he tries to enter Macedonia at the Greek-Macedonia borderline near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA
FILE – An Afghan refugee jumps the fence as he tries to enter Macedonia at the Greek-Macedonia borderline near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA

Afghanistan and the European Union are co-hosting the conference, which will be attended by representatives from more than 70 countries and 20 international organisations and agencies. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are among conference speakers.

The development framework, which aims to “achieve self-reliance and increase the welfare of [the Afghan] people,” requires billions of dollars in funding.

Hakimi estimated that donors will pledge $3.5 billion toward financing the development plan.

Among major donors, Britain said this week it would provide almost $1 billion in development aid to Afghanistan over the next five years.

A State Department spokesman declined to say how much the U.S. planned to commit and referred questions to the conference organisers.

James Cunningham, who served as U.S. ambassador to Kabul from 2012 to 2014, said there is wide support for the continued commitment to Afghanistan.

“Another cause for optimism is it’s pretty unprecedented to have that degree of international agreement on almost anything,” Cunningham said Monday, speaking on a panel about Afghanistan at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Creating jobs

While asking for billions of dollars in funding, Afghanistan is also pledging to wean itself off foreign aid through economic growth and job creation. The development plan envisions Afghanistan’s reliance on foreign aid dropping from 70 percent of government expenditure to 40/50 percent by 2020, as domestic revenue grows from 10.3 percent of GDP to about 14.0 percent of GDP.

FILE - Afghan migrants on an overcrowded inflatable boat approach the Greek island of Lesbos in bad weather after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 28, 2015. VOA
FILE – Afghan migrants on an overcrowded inflatable boat approach the Greek island of Lesbos in bad weather after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 28, 2015. VOA

Job creation will be key not only to reducing reliance to foreign aid, but also to stopping the mass migration from the country.

Without “a big increase in jobs, Afghans will continue to resort to desperate measures such as illicit narcotics production, out-migration, and joining violent criminal networks,” according to a draft of the development plan.

The plan will take time to bear fruit and will require sustained donor support.

“The sustainable development that will help Afghanistan meet its many challenges, bring an end to poverty, and ensure security and stability for our country will take longer than a single generation to realize,” the plan says.

The Brussels conference comes less than three months after NATO leaders met in Warsaw and agreed to fund Afghanistan’s security forces for the next four years, to the tune of $3 billion.

The U.S. provides roughly $3.5 billion annually in support of the 350,000 members of the Afghan armed forces, in addition to about $1 billion in development aid.

The United States and its partners have a shared interest in supporting Afghanistan’s reform and development agenda, Cunningham said.

“The planks are already in place to demonstrate there is going to be long-term international engagement in Afghanistan,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Sri Lanka Commemorates 10 Years Since End of Civil War

Sri Lanka’s army chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake has said his troops will ensure that this year’s commemoration goes ahead peacefully

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Sri Lankan soldiers secure the area around St. Anthony's Shrine, April 21, 2019, after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Still reeling from the Easter terror attacks, Sri Lanka commemorates this weekend 10 years since the end of a bloody civil war that killed at least 100,000 people, the scars of which are still not healed.

Security was tight in the north of the island, home to Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils, ahead of solemn ceremonies Saturday.

Sri Lanka’s government and top military brass were to have their own commemoration in Colombo Sunday.

On May 18, 2009, government forces brought their no-holds-barred military offensive to an end at a lagoon in the northern coastal district of Mullaittivu with the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the rebel Tamil Tigers.

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FILE – People stand in front of a mural of Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran painted on a wall in Chennai, India, May 19, 2015. Across Chennai, large billboards with photographs of Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers, urge its people to “not forget” the day the insurgent group accepted defeat. VOA

Thousands missing

Sri Lanka’s then-president Mahinda Rajapakse declared an end to the 37-year separatist conflict — marked by massacres, suicide bombings and assassinations — between Tamil militants and the central government, which is dominated by the majority Sinhalese.

But for thousands of war widows and other victims on both sides, this marked the start of a new struggle: to find out the fate of their loved ones.

About 20,000 people are still missing, including 5,000 government troops.

Anandarasan Nagakanni, 61, is still searching for her son Arindavadas.

“He was last seen with the Sri Lankan army, and after that we haven’t seen him,” she told AFP at a tiny makeshift office in Mullaittivu, where a notice board was covered with dozens of photos of missing people.

Nagaraja Sureshamma, 65, who lost one son and is still looking for the other, recalled the horrors of the final months and how civilians scrambled to escape indiscriminate attacks and shelling.

“We were all going together, but my son happened to go on a different route. … Ever since, we have not been able to find him,” Sureshamma said.

“If they are not alive, then they need to tell us that at least,” said Mariasuresh Easwari, an activist trying to help find the missing.

“Did you murder them? Did you bury them? Tell us.”

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FILE – A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil woman supporting the Dead and Missing Person’s Parents Front holds a placard as police officers stand guard during a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 30, 2013. VOA

Grieving banned

Sri Lankan forces have been accused of killing about 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war, a charge successive governments have denied.

Several mass graves containing skeletal remains have been found in the past two decades, but only a handful of those buried have ever been formally identified.

Until recently, even remembering the war dead was considered subversive and annual memorial services by Tamils were trashed by government forces.

Government forces have set up memorials in the north for fallen security forces and bulldozed Tiger cemeteries, obliterating any sign of the rebels who at their zenith controlled a third of Sri Lanka.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a recent report that the new government’s promised political reforms and accountability for wartime atrocities have failed to materialize.

“For many Sri Lankans living in the bitterly contested north and east, the war has never quite ended,” it said.

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Sri Lankan security officers inspect vandalized shops owned by Muslims in Minuwangoda, a suburb of Colombo, May 14, 2019. VOA

Islamist terror

Although the pain for many families remains, and many in the 2.5-million-strong Tamil community still feel disadvantaged, the end of the war did open a peaceful new chapter in which Sri Lanka’s economy and tourism boomed.

But this peace was shattered April 21 when Islamist suicide bombers targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners.

The attackers were homegrown extremists — the Islamic State group also claimed credit — and riots since saw dozens of homes, businesses and mosques of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority vandalized. One man was killed by a mob wielding swords.

According to the ICG, the Easter attacks “compounded the general anxiety, tearing again at the social fabric, unleashing further violence and complicating the road to sustainable peace.”

Evoking memories of past dark times, a state of emergency has been in place since April 21 with the return of some wartime restrictions on free movement.

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Sri Lanka’s army chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake has said his troops will ensure that this year’s commemoration goes ahead peacefully.

“As much as we mourn the soldiers who were killed in the war, (minority Tamil) civilians also have a right to commemorate their war dead,” he said Thursday. (VOA)