Friday, October 23, 2009

When is the Afghanistan war not a war?

When some British immigration judges say it isn't:

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.

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.
It's a war zone. Not that difficult to understand, is it?

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.
But it's not like there's a war going on, so no big deal.

Just as a sidebar, I noticed while watching Frontline's 'Obama's War' last week and reading a story in The Independent about Helmand province that Canadian (and other NATO troops) were not even mentioned as being present in the region. It's all British and/or US troops apparently. We may not have the largest numbers but we are there. You'd think these journalists would at least acknowledge that.

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