Each day an estimated 7,000 Afghans apply for passports
Afghans do not apply for passports unless they intend to travel outside the country since they do not use passports for identification at home.
That means more than 200,000 Afghans plan on leaving the country each month — a sudden and dramatic increase.
The head of the Afghan passport distribution directorate, General Sayed Omar Saboori, told VOA the directorate’s central and provincial offices have the capacity to provide only 2,500 passports on a daily basis.
“The system was primarily designed for 1,000 passports countrywide, but in recent months because of the rising demand, we are working both shifts,” said General Saboori. “Thousands of applicants wait all day long, and we can only do so much to meet the rising demand.”
Dangerous journey to Europe
Right now, Afghans are the second largest group — behind Syrians — waiting on the shores of Europe, hoping to embrace a new life on the continent.
Most undertake unthinkably dangerous journeys seeking a better future in Europe.
According to Babar Baluch of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Hungary, of the 140,000 people who sought asylum in Hungary alone this year, 40,000 of them are Afghans.
“[And most arrive] in ships that can easily capsize because of the overload and a lot of them did, resulting in the tragic death of countless people who drowned in the ocean,” he said.
Zalmai Rasooli, who lives in northern Parwan province, experienced this journey himself.
“Two years ago, I decided to leave the country and reach Europe,” he said. “I went through Iran and Turkey and reached Greece after months of travel and tremendous amount of hardship. I was caught at the border of Greece and deported back to Afghanistan.”
Rasooli recalls seeing a boat capsize. To this day he’s convinced none of its 40 refugees could have survived.
But that immense risk will not deter him from making the journey all over again.
Afghanistan, he says, doesn’t have anything to offer him, and he plans to leave the country soon.
On Monday, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in the capital, Kabul, to protest against the rising unemployment in the country. Protestors were complaining about the lack of employment opportunities and warned of “mass exodus” if the government fails to address the issue.
“If the unemployment issue is not addressed, we will soon witness an empty Kabul,” said Sharif, a protestor, who like many Afghans goes by only one name.
Over 60 percent of Afghans are aged 18-25, making Afghanistan one of the youngest countries in the world.
The Afghan government acknowledges the seriousness of unemployment in the country. Spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Ali Eftekhari, told VOA the government is working on short and long-term projects to address unemployment.
“In the long-run, we will provide enduring employment opportunities for Afghans through building economic infrastructures in the country, but in the short run, we are in discussions with a number of Arab countries that are in need of workers,” he said.
Opportunities for the educated
Hanif Sufizada, a Fulbright scholar who graduated from Cornell University’s Institute of Public Affairs, paints a rather bright picture of opportunities in Afghanistan.
“After graduating from Cornell University in public administration, I came back to Afghanistan to join a newly established National Unity Government because of ample employment opportunities in the area of my specialization,” he said.
One of the 450 Afghan Fulbright scholars who came to the U.S. for education, Sufizada said that some fellow scholars, pessimistic about the direction their country was headed in, chose to remain in the U.S. upon the completion of their degrees. Others returned and are working in various sections of the Afghan government.
Despite the situation of youth in Afghanistan, thousands are employed by the Afghan government and international organizations.
In the last 14 years, tens of thousands of Afghans have left the country in pursuit of academic opportunities. Similarly, tens of thousands graduated from local universities, a potentially tremendous asset for the Afghan economy should they be given the opportunity.
But a young society can be a double edged sword. Employed, young people contribute to the country’s economy; unemployed, they can be a force of instability. As one of those who took part in Monday’s protest in Kabul said, “It’s unemployment that pushes Afghan youth to join the insurgents or use drugs.”
When news of Haiti died down in the mainstream media two months after the earthquake, things had not cooled down: quite the contrary, they had just started to simmer. A highly controversial State of Emergency Law had already been drafted and presented to Haiti’s Lower House for a vote.
This was a law to allow an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), led by former US President William J. Clinton, to run the country for an 18-month State of Emergency. Haiti’s Lower House, a large majority of which belonged to President René Préval’s party, INITE, met for a vote on March 8, 2010. That meeting of the Members of Parliament (MP) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote no. At least 20 legislators walked out, hoping to break the quorum, and they declared the law to be unconstitutional. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One legislator proposed an amendment that would have allowed a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. The deal had been made from the start. Forty-three MPs voted yes, 6 voted no, and 8 abstained.
How did all this come to pass? First, the Préval-led government had come from elections that had excluded Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties. So this government was highly unrepresentative. Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency Law had come from those who had supported previous dictatorships. The great majority of the population categorically rejected this group, which demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haiti, FAd’H) be re-established, MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter be respected.
Their calls of protest fell on the deaf ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality. Finally, Préval’s government was considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it had failed to account for its expenses during the first three months of 2010. Préval himself had campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he had insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is “a weak state” but still “possesses its sovereignty.”
With the Lower House in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. During an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted no to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he needed the Parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners.
They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree. Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared: “the president wants to dissolve the Parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate then numbered 25 because of two earthquake deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated; two of those senators had showed up merely to snub the meeting.
Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides draw fishes and compare them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Senate on behalf of the US? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a sign that a deal was made for the occupation?
A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the yes votes coming from INITE. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether. It was extraordinary that even this highly unrepresentative government had put up such a fight for sovereignty. Haiti would not be an easy conquest.
In the IHRC, which was Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and was to be led by him, a majority of foreigners had hoped to administer Haiti.
FOURTEEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT FOREIGN INTERESTS
Nine representatives who are major donors. They would be chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This was a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution had to donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The original list of these donors included the US, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations, and World Bank.
One representative of Caricom.
One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
One representative of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.
One representative of the Haitian diaspora.
SEVEN UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT HAITI
Three representatives of the Haitian government, nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities. Jean-Max Bellerive, who was chosen by Clinton for this group, got a laughable equal billing with him. In October 2009, Bellerive had been foisted by the US on Préval as Prime Minister. President Préval himself would not actually be a member but would have symbolic veto rights.
One MP, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Lower House.
One senator, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Senate.
One union representative, designated by the union syndicates.
One business representative, nominated by the business community.
There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. This is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-for-play commission might well be for your state or country.
Though the IHRC boasted of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, was to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops were there too, though not as explicit. Indeed, even as homeless Haitians were being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there was no room for them in the city, ground was being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism, which were euphemisms for land grab.
After much controversy in April 2010 about the 11 articles under which Bill Clinton’s IHRC would operate in the country, three new articles were appended to the organization’s charter without oversight. In Article 12, the IHRC gave itself the “full power to deliver proprietary titles and licenses for the construction of hospitals, power companies, ports, and other projects of economic development.” In a clear sign of power reversal, the Article called on Haiti’s ministries to work with the IHRC to accelerate its high-priority projects.
At the conclusion of its 18-month term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. So any democratically elected government in the future would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. Much of the country’s lands would be in foreign hands. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging for aid funds. This had gone on for some time, but it would become institutionalized.
It’s hard to find anyone these days who looks back on the U.S.-led response to the January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake as a success, but it wasn’t always that way. Right after the disaster, even as neighborhoods lay in rubble, their people sweltering under tarps, the consensus—outside Haiti—was that America’s “compassionate invasion” (as TIME Magazine called it) had been “largely a success” (Los Angeles Times), offering further proof that “in critical moments of the history of mankind … the United States is, in fact, the indispensable nation” (Expresso, Portugal).
As the latest release of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails by the U.S. State Department Monday revealed, that perception was not an accident. “We waged a very successful campaign against the negative stories concerning our involvement in Haiti,” Judith McHale, the under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, wrote on February 26, 2010. A few weeks before, the public affairs chief had emailed newspaper quotations praising U.S. efforts in Haiti to Secretary Clinton with the note “Our Posts at work.” Clinton applauded. “That’s the result of your leadership and a new model of engagement w our own people,” she replied. “Onward!”
But one person even closer to the secretary of state was singing a different tune—very, very quietly. On February 22, after a four-day visit to the quake zone, Chelsea Clinton authored a seven-page memo which she addressed to “Dad, Mom,” and copied their chief aides. That informal report tells acontinuing story of the unique brands of power and intelligence wielded by the Clinton family in Haiti and around the world—and of the uniquely Clinton ways they often undermine themselves.
First off, there was the secrecy. The memo—by a Clinton, with a master’s in public health from Columbia University, pursuing a doctorate in international relations from Oxford and with a prominent role at her family’s foundation—would have obliterated the public narrative of helpful outsiders saving grateful earthquake survivors that her mother’s State Department was working so hard to promote. Instead, like so much of the inner workings of the Clintons’ vast network, it was kept secret, released only in an ongoing dump of some 35,000 emails from Hillary’s private server, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit wrapped up in the politics of the 2016 presidential election.
Chelsea Clinton was blunt in her report, confident the recipients would respect her request in the memo’s introduction to remain an “invisible soldier.” She had first come to the quake zone six days after the disaster with her father and then-fiancé, Mark Mezvinsky. Now she was returning with the medical aid group Partners in Health, whose co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, was her father’s deputy in his Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. What she saw profoundly disturbed her.
Five weeks after the earthquake, international responders were still in relief mode: U.S. soldiers roamed Port-au-Prince streets on alert for signs of social breakdown, while aid groups held daily coordination meetings inside a heavily guarded UN compound ordinary Haitian couldn’t enter. But Haitians had long since moved on into their own recovery mode, many in displacement camps they had set up themselves, as responders who rarely even spoke the language, Kreyòl, worked around them, oblivious to their efforts.
“The incompetence is mind numbing,” she told her parents. “The UN people I encountered were frequently out of touch … anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.” “There is NO accountability in the UN system or international humanitarian system.” The weak Haitian government, which had lost buildings and staff in the disaster, had something of a plan, she noted. Yet because it had failed to articulate its wishes quickly enough, foreigners rushed forward with a “proliferation of ad hoc efforts by the UN and INGOs [international nongovernmental organizations] to ‘help,’ some of which have helped … some of which have hurt … and some which have not happened at all.”
The former first daughter recognized something that scores of other foreigners had missed: that Haitians were not just sitting around waiting for others to do the work. “Haitians in the settlements are very much organizing themselves … Fairly nuanced settlement governance structures have already developed,” she wrote, giving the example of camp home to 40,000 displaced quake survivors who had established a governing committee and a series of sub-committees overseeing security, sanitation, women’s needs and other issues.
“They wanted to help themselves, and they wanted reliability and accountability from their partners,” Chelsea Clinton wrote. But that help was not coming. The aid groups had ignored requests for T-shirts, flashlights and pay for the security committee, and the U.S. military had apparently passed on the committee’s back-up plan that they provide security themselves. “The settlements’ governing bodies—as they shared with me—are beginning to experience UN/INGO fatigue given how often they articulate their needs, willingness to work—and how little is coming their way.”
That analysis went beyond what some observers have taken years to understand, and many others still haven’t: that disaster survivors are best positioned to take charge of their own recovery, yet often get pushed aside by outside authorities who think, wrongly, that they know better. Her report also had more than an echo of the philosophy of her Partners in Health tour guides. More than five years later, her candor and force of insight impress experts. “I am struck by the direct tone and the level of detail,” says Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Jonathan M. Katz won the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and cholera epidemic, and the Overseas Press Club of America’s Cornelius Ryan Award for his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He reported on the Clintons in Haiti for POLITICO on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.
An email from Chelsea Clinton addressed to “Dad” and “Mom” became one of the more interesting nuggets within former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department email release Monday.
In the 2010 email discussing the Haitian relief efforts following a massive earthquake, Chelsea wrote she was “profoundly disturbed” and “the incompetence was mind-numbing.”
Although the date of the message is not known, the seven-page memo ripping into the United Nations’ handling of the relief effort was written some time after Chelsea had spent four days in Haiti working as a part of the relief effort.
“If we do not quickly change the organization, management, accountability and delivery paradigm on the ground, we could quite conceivably confront tens of thousands of children’s deaths by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other water-related diseases in the near future,” she wrote.
President Barack Obama had announced in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that Bill Clinton, along with George W. Bush, would be tasked with leading the fundraising effort in conjunction with the United Nations.
At the time, Hillary made a visit to Haiti and assured Haitians that the US would assist in any way possible.
“We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead,” she said.
Americans citizens donated $1.4 billion to recovery efforts in Haiti in the year following the earthquake, and the US government allocated $4 billion for the stricken country,according to NBC. The United Nations said that $13.4 billion had been set aside to spend on Haiti through 2020.
You can read the memo in its entirety here.