…As Afghans paid to return home from Europe have second thoughts***
Six children in south-western Tanzania have been killed and
had their ears and teeth removed, the authorities say.
Some of the bodies of the children, aged between two and
nine years old, were also missing limbs.
“This is all about superstitious beliefs and many
believe they will get help from witchcraft,” Njombe District Commissioner
Ruth Msafiri said.
Police have detained one suspect, a close relative of three
of the children who were from the same family.
Ten children in all have gone missing in Njombe since the
beginning of December and four have been found alive.
Correspondents say that some witchdoctors in the region tell
people that human body parts have special properties that can bring them wealth
“We urge all parents and guardians to be on alert and
teach their children on how determine the motives of who is around them,”
the district commissioner told the BBC.
The children were taken from their homes at night when their
parents were selling food at a market.
In the meantime, a wave of anxiety washed over Mohammad
Farooq Niazi as the plane touched down in his homeland.
“I missed my country,” he said, recalling his mindset on the
day he returned to Afghanistan after almost three years of trying to build a
new life in Europe. “But I wasn’t feeling safe.”
As traffic crawled into Kabul, Niazi worried he’d be killed
in one of the regular attacks carried out by militant groups including the
Taliban and the Islamic State.
But the number of Afghans returned by European countries to
their homeland — either forcefully or voluntarily — nearly tripled, from 3,290
in 2015 to 9,460 the following year, according to Amnesty International.
While some failed asylum-seekers are forcibly removed, others
like Niazi opt for the United Nations-operated Assisted Voluntary Return and
Reintegration program, which enables host nations to pay willing returnees to
go home. (The U.S. does not fund assisted voluntary returns to any country.)
The amount of money paid by European countries to migrants
under the program ranges from around $500 to $4,500 per person, according to
Niazi, 27, is one of thousands of Afghan migrants who have
been paid to return home by European governments. Austria gave him $3,100 and a
one-way ticket to Kabul. The rest was up to him.
More than 400,000 Afghans lodged asylum claims in Europe for
the first time from 2015 through 2017, according to European Union figures.
Hundreds of thousands of other migrants also arrived in E.U.
countries during that period, including many fleeing conflicts, rampant
corruption and extreme poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Advocates of the measure say supporting returning migrants financially
helps them to rebuild their lives. They say it also promotes reintegration, as
some countries attach conditions to receiving funds such as setting up a
business, enrolling in a course or renting an apartment.
But other migration experts and rights groups say the
program is not truly voluntary, as often people feel they have no choice but to
sign up amid the threat of being forcibly removed. Some also argue it
legitimizes returns to countries that are not safe.
The first thing Niazi noticed on disembarking from the plane
last spring was the state of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“It’s very old and unprofessional in comparison to those of
European countries,” he said.
Nearly three years in Europe had changed Niazi.
While he was happy to see his mother again, Niazi said life
in Afghanistan initially felt “unfamiliar” and the day-to-day violence weighed
on his mind.
He got by on the $3,100 given to him under the U.N. program
and went into business with his uncle, who is a butcher.
But after almost a year of being back in Afghanistan, Niazi
says he still does not feel safe and says he plans to return to Europe with his
mother and his new wife as soon as possible.
Otherwise “our child will be born in a place where there is
no peace or stability,” he said. “Afghanistan is not for living or finding
‘CRIME, TERRORISM, CIVIL UNREST’
Many Afghans like Niazi worry about their families’ safety
in a country where an emboldened Taliban is fighting U.S.-led NATO forces and
the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
The militants were toppled by American forces in 2001 after
sheltering 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, but now hold sway over almost half
of the country and are again imposing their strict version of Islam on swaths
of the population.
By all accounts, security in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The first half of 2018 was the deadliest ever for Afghan civilians, with 1,700 people killed, according to a recent study commissioned by Save the Children.
The State Department also warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Afghanistan due to “crime, terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.”
A recent report by Amnesty International on forced and
voluntary returns to the country concluded that returns were taking place
despite evidence that people “face a real risk of serious human rights
Nicola Graviano, who works for the International
Organization for Migration, the U.N. body that runs the program, said it
continually monitors conditions on the ground as part of the voluntary returns
That “doesn’t mean, though, that the situation is rosy
everywhere,” he said. “It’s a constantly evolving situation and we
need to be ready to adapt and reconsider our lines.”
He cautioned that the principles of international law — such
as not forcing asylum-seekers to return to a place where they face persecution
— applied when returning migrants to Afghanistan.
Liza Schuster, an expert in migration policy based at City,
University of London, questioned whether the U.N. program should be used to
return people to a “country in conflict” like Afghanistan.
“For some people who feel they have absolutely no other
choice, they will take assisted voluntary return,” she said. “Even though the
voluntary is in heavily inverted quotes.”
According to Schuster, migrants are often told by officials
in the West that “if we have to force you back on a plane you won’t
receive anything when you arrive.”
Taking the money as part of the U.N. program can often appear to be a better answer.
BBC with additional report from NBC