by Elijah DeRoche, UWCM
March 3rd, 2018
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]In November of 2016, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was given an ultimatum: lose EU financial support or sign the EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward agreement and allow for the return of rejected Afghan asylum seekers. They chose the latter. Deemed illegal by Amnesty International, the agreement outlined a system in which an unlimited flow of Afghan refugees would be unwillingly diverted out of Europe and back to the war zone they had fled.
Since the ratification of the agreement, thousands of Afghans have been sent back to what is considered by many—including United Kingdom’s Foreign Office—the world’s most dangerous country, while others remain afraid in the EU, uncertain if they will be permitted asylum or deported. Organizations such as Amnesty and Stand Up For Afghans have fought defiantly alongside Afghan refugees against the recent influx in Afghan deportations.
In December of 2017, this fight became very personal within our community as our classmate Haroon Rezaie and his family had received notice of rejected asylum from the Dutch government. This sparked many students to come together, while working with Haroon and like-minded organizations, to coordinate a protest. The turnout was exceptional, as many UWCM students protested passionately through the Maastricht streets. After the success at the first rally, further organizing began in the preparation of a second protest. The event had noticeably left a mark on the community, as students continued discussing the issues raised in and outside of the classrooms. The second protest gained traction within the Maastricht community and was again a success.
On February 18, 2018, protesters stood out against the EU’s policies on Afghan refugees in nearly 50 cities across Europe, including Maastricht. “Afghanistan is not safe!” echoed through the Vrijthof last Sunday as Stand Up For Afghans held their third protest against the deportation against Afghans since the UWCM became involved. Guest speakers from Amnesty, Stand Up For Afghans and AIMS graced the protest as Haroon stressed the point that people like his family and himself would be paying for the EU’s decisions.
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]The protest attracted many spectators, but apart from a few students, the initial UWC energy our community brought to the first set of rallies, was absent. While this may have partly been due to the fact that students were still arriving back to campus after the break, the majority of the community had already returned. It’s unclear whether or not there was a lack of information surrounding the rally or, rather if most opted against attending.
Nonetheless, protests raged on from Stockholm to Geneva to Maastricht, all calling for one message: keep Afghan refugees here. Although the Dutch government has yet to make any concrete decisions regarding the continued deportation of Afghan refugees, Haroon and his family are grateful to continue living in the Netherlands while they await further information this coming May. It is now that we must press on and make our voices heard. Houd Haroon Hier!
Elijah DeRoche is an American first year student at United World College Maastricht. He has been a part of The Flying Dutchman as a writer since January 2018.