11 March 2016

Last week, the UK Court of Appeal lifted the suspension on the deportation of asylum seekers whose claims were not accepted to certain provinces of Afghanistan, which had been in place since August last year. The case related to asylum seekers who sought protection in the UK on the basis that they were at risk of harm due to a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan. The Court upheld the correctness of a previous finding that the level of indiscriminate violence in Afghanistan was not high enough to grant protection, though it did not itself assess the country situation. This means that deportations to Afghanistan from the UK may now resume. Both applicants arrived in the UK when they were children and sought asylum as unaccompanied minors.  A recent investigation shows that since 2007 the UK has deported more than 2000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children to their country of origin once they turn 18, many of whom had spent their formative years there.

The ruling comes at a time when Afghans, the second largest group of asylum seekers, are facing increasing difficulties in obtaining protection in Europe. A number of Member States are becoming openly hostile towards Afghan asylum seekers, with politicians erroneously labelling them as ‘economic migrants’ and campaigns have been launched by Germany , Belgium and Norway to discourage them arriving. Last month, restrictive border policies by countries along the Western Balkans route has meant that Afghans are denied entry, leaving them and many others trapped in Greece in dire humanitarian conditions and creating a two-tier system of protection.

However, EASO has documented a rise in abductions and violence towards the end of 2015 in Afghanistan, and a recent report by UNAMA also found that civilian casualties reached a record high that year, indicating that Afghanistan is increasingly dangerous. The latest statistics from Eurostat show significant discrepancies between EU Member States in granting protection to Afghans, with the UK giving one of the lowest rates of protection.  A paper leaked by Statewatch reveals that the EU institutions and Member States “are aware of the worsening security situation and threats to which people are exposed” which is reflected in an increased EU-wide acceptance rate of 60% for Afghan asylum seekers in the second half of 2015. UNHCR chief, Filippo Grandi, has also recently reiterated that many Afghans have ‘urgent protection needs’.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 March 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.