The European Union (EU) is currently negotiating the prolongation of the Joint Way Forward (JWF) on migration issues with the government of Afghanistan. The JWF, which is set to expire on 6 October 2020, was signed on the side-lines of the Brussels donor conference in 2016; as is often the case with informal agreements, it was concluded without the involvement of the European Parliament and with no transparent reporting mechanism envisaged for its implementation. The agreement aims to facilitate the deportation to Afghanistan of Afghans who came to Europe to seek protection. It is believed that the EU used the leverage of its development aid to pressure the Afghan government to sign this informal deal.
We are concerned that the EU’s disproportionate focus on returning and deporting Afghans from Europe will continue to shape the negotiations. Cooperation with Afghanistan on returns and broader migration management should not undermine the EU’s overall approach to Afghanistan which should go beyond a predominant focus on returns to acknowledge the complex dynamics of migration from Afghanistan and within the region, and should primarily address the underlying drivers of instability and violent conflict in Afghanistan.