Afghanistan has the highest population of refugees outside Afghanistan after Syria. Refugees have been leaving Afghanistan en masse since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Pakistan hosts the largest number of Afghan refugees, with 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. It is thought that around a million more live in Pakistan without proper documentation.
How do Afghan refugees come to the UK?
A relatively small number of Afghan refugees make it to the UK. All refugees coming to the UK go through the same process in terms of the application. A person will claim at Port, if they come through a port, such as an airport or ferry port, or if they do not claim at a port of entry they can claim once they enter the UK either by going to the Home Office or by phoning the Home Office to lodge their claim. It is usual with Afghan refugees that they enter the UK illegally, often coming in lorries or vehicles over the border at Calais. Many Afghan refugees have several attempts to enter the UK before they finally manage to do so.
It is usual that refugees don’t speak English, having recently arrived in the UK. As an Afghan refugee, you may wish to have a Farsi or Dari interpreter. The Home Office will provide an interpreter for you if required, for all of your Home Office interviews. Your lawyer should also provide an interpreter for you for meetings with your lawyer.
What claim to persecution do Afghan refugees have?
People from Afghanistan can be persecuted for a number of reasons and claims relating to all aspects of the Refugee Convention are common.
Political asylum claims
In respect of political asylum applications, applicants can be persecuted for supporting the government, and for supporting anti-government groups such as the Taliban. Indeed, applicants can also be persecuted for their perceived support given to either the government or anti-government groups. This creates a large swathe of people that can have political opinion claims or imputed political opinion claims without being high-level activists.
General asylum claims
There are also general claims on the security situation in Afghanistan. The situation on the ground in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and whilst the levels do not currently meet the high level of indiscriminate violence for non-combatants required by article 15C of the Qualification Directive, the situation is extremely bad in Afghanistan. In some instances, the general security situation will be sufficient for a person to qualify for some kind of protection.
Gender-based asylum claims
In respect of gender claims, women are treated with a high level of discrimination, which can amount to persecution where there is no appropriate male protection. As such females that could be the victims of honour crimes could be at risk and lone females returning could also face persecution in Afghanistan.
How will young people be treated?
Afghanistan also has a high number of young, usually male, asylum applicants in the UK. Where applicants are under the age of 18, they will be treated differently by the Home Office and have a lower standard to which they need to prove their case. Furthermore, applicants under the age of 18 will be supported by social services and be provided with housing, funding and support from the state at a higher level than an adult refugee would.
Religious asylum claims
There are also religious claimants from Afghanistan, for example by Hindus and Sikhs who can face persecution in Afghanistan for their religious beliefs. Some minority ethnic groups also face persecution, in particular, claims by Hazaras are common in Afghan cases and need to be judged on a case-by-case basis.
There are considerable numbers of country guidance cases concerning the situation for many different groups of people in Afghanistan, and when choosing your lawyer, you should ensure that they are mindful of these cases when preparing your case.
Westkin Associates continues to be a leading supporter of Afghan refugees.
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