ECRE published a Policy Note this week which looks at the treatment of applications for international protection from Afghan nationals, considering recent policies and guidelines and the approach of national courts.
Afghan nationals were the second highest group to seek international protection in Europe in 2018. They face the largest variation in recognition rates in Europe, with the rate varying from 6% to 98%, depending on the country, with no apparent reason for the divergence lying in the nature of the cases. This persisting divergence and the risk of human rights violations that results has prompted an increasing number of courts to suspend Dublin transfers of asylum seekers to countries where they would be at risk of onward deportation. In 2018, for example, domestic courts – mainly in France – ruled against transfers of Afghan asylum seekers to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
The Policy Note has a particular focus is the internal protection alternative (IPA). In EASO’s first country guidance note: ‘Country Guidance: Afghanistan’, EASO concluded that Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif could be considered as a reasonable location for an IPA for single, able-bodied adult men and for married couples of working age with no children, i.e. persons with these profiles from elsewhere in Afghanistan could be transferred to these cities, regardless of whether they have a support network there. The UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum Seekers from Afghanistan published in the same year, concluded that, after considering the negative trends in the security situation, the overall situation of conflict and human rights violations, and the adverse impact on the broader socio-economic context, an IPA is generally not available in Kabul.
ECRE has also published a non-exhaustive compilation of recent case law on returns to Afghanistan from Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom in 2017-2018. They include cases assessing the possibility of return for Afghan nationals in light of their personal circumstances and the security situation in the country. Many decisions refer to either the EASO or the UNHCR guidelines. On the IPA, case law from France and Switzerland includes decisions which place greater weight on protection. In France, a court ruled that subsidiary protection must be granted not only to those coming from a region with a generalised level of violence resulting in a serious threat to one’s life but also to those who would have to cross such an area in order to reach their region of origin.
ECRE will continue advocacy to halt returns to Afghanistan until there are significant changes in the situation in Afghanistan and ECRE’s prerequisites for return are in place in Europe. The Policy Note includes specific recommendations to address the current situation.