The ‘farcical handling’ of an Afghan asylum seeker’s case? How many times have we heard that before?
The difference this time is that the Afghan asylum seeker was an interpreter who had worked for British forces – and had been injured in a Taliban bomb blast in Afghanistan – and there was clear documentary evidence to prove this. And the condemnation of the ‘farcical handling’ comes from the Daily Mail.
None of us are under any illusions about why this story – among the thousands of people’s lives ruined and put at risk by UKBA – was featured as a positive piece on asylum in the Daily Mail. The ‘betrayal‘ theme is prevalent in all the media coverage of the story, and the fact that the story was broken by BBC/newspaper defence correspondents underlines that Mr Hottak’s position as an interpreter for ‘our troops’ is what has made this story stand out.
An asylum seeker whose life is at risk because he helped the British army, with indisputable documents to prove who he is and that he’s at risk. This doesn’t reflect the majority of Afghans who flee their country (mostly to countries such as Pakistan and Iran but some do survive the hazardous journey to the UK). But Mr Hottak’s story is important, because it shows that if even he if disbelieved by UKBA, the asylum system isn’t working. And it’s not just NCADC and its supporters – who are in no doubt this is the case – saying it. Spreading the message that the asylum system does not protect those it needs to, and lives are therefore put at risk, is crucial.
Mr Hottak’s story may not be representative, but it’s an opportunity to start a discussion. If the cynical disbelief and endemic incompetence at UKBA blinds the department to overwhelming proof of risk, what hope do the many young boys who are sent by their families out of Afghanistan for their own safety have? Often these boys do not know why they have been sent. Usually (though not always) it’s before anything has happened to them personally – but their families are already scarred by attacks, kidnappings and killings and they fear their sons will be next.
Proving this risk is very difficult. As Asef, the young Afghan in the play Mazloom, based on the experiences of young Afghan asylum seekers who attend MAWAW in London, says: ‘This is Afghanistan. You can’t just put my name into a computer and my life comes out. Even Karzai, the president, doesn’t have that’.
Trying to get evidence of individual risk can put the young person’s family in danger. Many young Afghans have lost all contact with their families after fleeing at a very young age and simply cannot remember or cannot access the evidence.
And whilst the asylum system (and the Refugee Convention) is based on protecting those who are risk as individuals because of who they are, the situation in Afghanistan is not that straightforward. There are weekly reports of terrible bomb attacks killing civilians (see our country of origin information blog for more information on this). Incomprehensible numbers of Afghans are internally displaced and many die during the harsh winters, or live in terrible conditions in the slums in Kabul and other cities.
Children and young people are particularly at risk and while recent caselaw in the UK helps establish this (notably AA Afghanistan and KA and Others), too many young people are unrepresented or poorly represented, and confused about what they are supposed to be doing and what is happening with their case.
In the light of this, it is unacceptable that anyone is being deported to Afghanistan. And we are not talking about one or two people. Dozens of young Afghans are removed against their will on ghost charter flights almost every fortnight, flights that leave in the middle of the night from unspecifed airports and operated by un-named companies.
If the UK government does not believe it’s doing anything wrong in deporting young people to a warzone, when their lives and their futures are here in the UK, why does it do it in the dead of night in shady operations that have no public scrutiny?
People are angry, people are ashamed the UK is doing this, people are scared about the young people they know and love. The movement is growing and we want you to come on board!
Join the conversation
There is a Facebook group and for those that dislike Facebook, an email group. To join the Facebook group, click here. To join the email group, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more
You can get involved with local groups working with young asylum seekers, many of whom are from Afghanistan, through the Young People Seeking Safety network.
Read about individual campaigns NCADC is supporting here.
Spread the word
Explain to your MP this is their responsibility and that they should take a stand against deportations to Afghanistan