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AI: European governments return nearly 10,000 Afghans to risk of death and torture

European governments have put thousands of Afghans in harm’s way by forcibly returning them to a country where they are at serious risk of torture, kidnapping, death and other human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

In their determination to increase the number of deportations, European governments are implementing a policy that is reckless and unlawful
Anna Shea, Amnesty International

At a time when civilian casualties in Afghanistan are at their highest levels on record, the new report says, European governments are forcing increasing numbers of asylum-seekers back to the dangers from which they fled, in brazen violation of international law.

The new report, Forced Back to Danger: Asylum-Seekers Returned from Europe to Afghanistan, details harrowing cases of Afghans who have been returned from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany only to be killed, injured in bomb attacks, or left to live in constant fear of being persecuted for their sexual orientation or conversion to Christianity.

“In their determination to increase the number of deportations, European governments are implementing a policy that is reckless and unlawful. Wilfully blind to the evidence that violence is at a record high and no part of Afghanistan is safe, they are putting people at risk of torture, kidnapping, death and other horrors,” said Anna Shea, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Refugee and Migrant Rights.

Countries that once pledged support for a better future for Afghans are now abandoning them to a country that has become even more dangerous since they fled
Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International

“These returns brazenly violate international law and must stop immediately. The same European countries that once pledged support for a better future for Afghans are now crushing their hopes and abandoning them to a country that has become even more dangerous since they fled,” said Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher.

Forcible returns and civilian casualties soar

The numbers of forcible returns from Europe have soared at a time when civilian casualties recorded by the UN are at their highest levels.

According to official EU statistics, between 2015 and 2016, the number of Afghans returned by European countries to Afghanistan nearly tripled: from 3,290 to 9,460. The returns correspond to marked fall in recognition of asylum applications, from 68% in September 2015 to 33% in December 2016.

At the same time, the numbers of civilian casualties have risen, according to statistics from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

In 2016, according to UNAMA, 11,418 people were killed or injured. Attacks on civilians took place in every part of the country and most of them were carried out by armed groups, including the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State. In the first six months of 2017 alone, UNAMA documented 5,243 civilian casualties.

I’m losing my mind. I am fearing a lot at night – I am really scared,
Azad, asylum seeker returned to Afghanistan

On 31 May, in one of the largest attacks in Kabul’s history, more than 150 people were killed and twice as many injured when a bomb exploded near several European embassies. (full article with testimonies in Amnesty International)

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