"I'm forced to hide myself," says Wazir (23), a refugee from Afghanistan. After an aggravating trip through Eastern Europe, he had arrived in Stuttgart in September. When he applied for asylum, Mr. Wazir hoped to build a new life in Germany, leaving war, poverty and destruction in Afghanistan behind.
It didn't work out that way. In January, Mr. Wazir's asylum request was rejected by the authorities. Fearing that he would be deported soon, the young Afghan secretly left his refugee home and is hiding at an unknown place. "I cannot sleep well. Every night, I fear that the police will find me and send me back to Afghanistan," he says.
Mr. Wazir's relatives - some of them living in the country for many years and now German citizens - help him as much as possible. "When we arrived in Germany, we were welcomed warmly. Nobody even thought about sending us back. It's sad that this has changed," says one of Mr. Wazir's cousins. "In Afghanistan, it's not much different than in Syria or Iraq. So why are they just deporting Afghans?" wonders another relative. Both of them didn't want to be named.
Those like Mr. Wazir have enough reasons to worry. In the last two months alone, the German government has deported 78 Afghan refugees, all sent back through charter flights. More deportation flights are in store.
Deportations in store
Last October, the Afghan government signed a deal, termed 'Joint Way Forward', with the European Union (EU) that allows for the deportation of an unlimited number of Afghan refugees in exchange for billions of dollars of aid from the EU over the next few years. Another pact, the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development, was signed earlier this month during the Munich Security Conference.
Many observers view the promised aid with scepticism as they believe the money will be pocketed by corrupt politicians. Many refugees share this opinion as well. "We have seen how corrupt politicians and warlords became incredibly rich during the last 15 years while Afghanistan's poor majority continued suffering. Why should this change now?" asks Fardeen (24), who has lived in the Austrian city of Innsbruck for more than five years.
Mr. Fardeen's asylum application has already been rejected twice by Austrian authorities. Like other Afghan refugees, he fears deportation more than ever after the Munich agreement.
"I cannot sleep well. I have heard stories on how the police came for refugees without any warning and sent them back to their countries forcefully," he says. The EU's deal seems to ignore that Afghanistan is anything but a safe country. According to recent United Nations figures, civilian casualties in Afghanistan have reached a new peak since the beginning of the census in 2009.
In 2016, the UN recorded 3,498 conflict-related civilians deaths and 7,920 injuries. Suicide attacks and bombings regularly take place in big cities such as Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad, while many other parts of the country are 'war areas' that are regularly facing military operations and air strikes by the Afghanistan Army and its Western allies.
One deportee who can attest to this threat is Atiqullah Akbari (23). Barely two weeks after getting deported by German authorities in January, he was injured in a suicide bombing at the Supreme Court in Kabul. At least 20 people were killed in the attack and dozens left injured.
"Nobody would care about us if we were deported and killed by the next bomb," Mr. Fardeen points out.Emran Feroz is an author and journalist based in Stuttgart.