Immigration judges: 'Afghanistan is not in a state of war'

Ruling paves way for asylum-seekers to be returned

Hundreds of Afghans living in Britain face being deported after immigration judges ruled that their home country's bloody conflict did not make the region an unsafe place to return failed asylum-seekers.

The test ruling opens the way for deportation flights to southern parts of the war-torn country where thousands of civilians have lost their lives since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.

Three judges of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the level of "indiscriminate violence" was not enough to permit Afghans to claim general humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom. Hundreds of asylum-seekers a year are returned to Afghanistan if they have not convinced a court they are in fear of persecution or that their lives are in danger. The ruling on Wednesday prevents them from arguing that the country is a dangerous place.

Last night refugee campaigners said the situation was much more dangerous than it was being represented by the UK Government and the courts.

A spokesman for the charity Refugee and Migrant Justice said: "It is now going to be very difficult for people from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Britain to win their claim by arguing that Afghanistan is a dangerous country. This decision really does take us back to square one."

Peter Kessler, the UN Refugee Agency's senior external affairs officer in the UK, said: "We are 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 (mid-October to 31 March), and only individuals from Kabul with family or other support structures may be returned."

The judges said: "Nobody is suggesting that the situation in Afghanistan is 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."

Turning down an asylum claim by a Afghan man, 20, from Nangarhar, the court ruled that civilian casualty figures were not high enough to warrant protection under European law.

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.

Lawyers for the Home Office argued in court that progress by the US military had "yielded results". Evidence submitted by the Government showed that apart from one incident when an air strike erroneously targeted a wedding celebration, killing 37 civilians, there was a reduction in civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces.

In the judgment, the three senior immigration judges observed: "It is 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 is really going on. Many of the incidents are reported more than once, and the political stance of those reporting the incident is not always clear."

Last year 3,800 Afghans, of whom 1,185 were asylum-seekers, were returned to Afghanistan.

*A British soldier was killed by a blast in southern Afghanistan yesterday. The serviceman, from the Royal Military Police, died while on a foot patrol near Gereshk district centre in Helmand Province. Lt-Col David Wakefield, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, confirmed the soldier's death in an explosion. "He died doing his duty and we will remember him," he said.

Case study: Sent back to his death

Abdullah Tokhi, 35, repeatedly pleaded while seeking asylum in Britain that his life was in danger because of a sectarian and political blood feud back home. But the Government at the time decided that Afghanistan was now a safe place thanks to the intervention of Britain and the US, and Mr Tokhi was returned to his village. A year later he was dead, shot while walking in a crowded street in a bazaar.

The account given by Mr Tokhi in his asylum application stated that the family originally lived in Bangarak in the Kalakan region in the north at a time when the ruling Taliban, overwhelmingly Pashtun, carried out widespread persecution of the Tajik population in the area. After the US and British invasion of 2001, the Northern Alliance, predominantly Tajiks and Uzbeks, took control and began hunting down those who had helped the Taliban.

As Mr Tokhi continued his efforts to stay in Britain, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, with regions falling into lawlessness. The Taliban moved back into this vacuum. Mr Tokhi's apprehension about his family's safety increased after reports that his enemies had tracked his family to their home in Paghman. Mr Tokhi's application for asylum was turned down by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, as was his appeal. He returned to Afghanistan in September 2004 and was killed in autumn 2005 .

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments