Afghanistan not unsafe for return of failed asylum-seekers: Asylum Tribunal

The decision takes them back to square one: refugee campaigners

23rd October 2009: British immigration judges have made it clear Afghanistan is not in a state of war; and it was not an unsafe place for failed asylum-seekers to return.

The significant ruling by three judges of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal has paved way for the deportation of hundreds of Afghans living in Britain. With this, the argument of the failed asylum seekers, that their country is a dangerous place, is expected to lose steam.

The judgment is significant as only last year 3,800 Afghans were returned to Afghanistan. Out of the total, as many as 1,185 were asylum-seekers.

The Tribunal ruled the scale of "indiscriminate violence" was not enough to permit Afghans to claim general humanitarian protection in the UK.

Available information suggests the judges in the ruling said nobody was suggesting the situation in Afghanistan was anything but a very long way short of ideal but the numbers of civilians killed by indiscriminate violence turns out to be a great deal less than might otherwise have been expected.

The judgment also made it clear that an asylum-seeker had to show why it was not possible to be relocated to another part of Afghanistan if they had succeeded in proving that they faced persecution in their own region.

The judges observed it was very difficult, from reading a number of qualitative reports concerning various incidents occurring in different parts of a country, to get a reliable feel for what was really going on. Many of the incidents were reported more than once, and the political stance of those reporting the incident was not always clear.

Reacting to the development, refugee campaigners said the situation was much more dangerous than it was being represented by the UK Government.

A spokesman for the charity Refugee and Migrant Justice asserted it was now going to be very difficult for people from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Britain to win their claim by arguing that Afghanistan was a dangerous country. This decision has taken them back to square one.

The UN Refugee Agency’s senior external affairs officer in the UK Peter Kessler said they were in disagreement with the conclusion that there can be returns during the winter months. The UNHCR has consistently advised that returns should not take place over the winter months from mid-October to 31 March, and only individuals from Kabul with family or other support structures may be returned.

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