The Norwegian government will be putting a teenage girl and her family at grave risk of serious human rights violations if it goes ahead with plans to return them to Afghanistan, Amnesty International said today.
Eighteen-year-old Taibeh Abbasi, who has never even visited Afghanistan, is in danger of being returned at any moment along with her mother and two brothers. Amnesty International is backing a grassroots campaign to stop their return, led by classmates at Taibeh’s school in Trondheim.
“Taibeh Abbasi is a popular, well-integrated teenager who dreams of becoming a doctor. But her life could be about to change forever. Like thousands of other Afghans who have found safe homes in European countries, she now faces being uprooted and sent to a war zone,” said Charmain Mohamed, Head of Refugees and Migrants Rights at Amnesty International.
“The vast outpouring of support from Taibeh’s peers shows just how out of touch Norway’s government is with young people. Through their determination to protect their friend and her family, these students have set a shining example, reminding us that we can all do something to welcome people fleeing war and persecution.”
Taibeh Abbasi was born in Iran to Afghan parents and fled to Norway with her mother and brothers in 2012. The Norwegian government has justified the family’s deportation by claiming that Afghanistan is safe for returns. This claim is contradicted by the findings of both Amnesty International and numerous other organizations.
European governments are forcing increasing numbers of asylum-seekers back to the dangers from which they fled, in brazen violation of international law. Last month, Amnesty International’s report Forced back to danger documented the sharp increase in the number of Afghans being forcibly returned from Europe, at a time when civilian casualties in Afghanistan are at their highest rate ever. The report details harrowing cases of Afghans who have been returned from European countries only to be killed, injured in bomb attacks, or left to live in constant fear of persecution. Amnesty International is calling for a suspension of all returns to Afghanistan, until they can take place in safety and dignity.
A number of other sources, such as the UN, US intelligence, and various embassies and international humanitarian organizations, have warned that the security situation in the country has dramatically worsened. Just last week, the European Commission announced increased humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, in light of the deteriorating conditions in the country.
On 4 October 2017, more than 1,500 people attended a demonstration in Trondheim organized by students from Taibeh Abbasi’s school. In a moving speech to protesters, Taibeh expressed her fears about going to Afghanistan, saying “We are not going to have a peaceful life….As a girl I am particularly exposed. My dreams of an education and a career will be broken.”
Speaking to Amnesty International, Taibeh Abbasi said “It’s hard to imagine life in Afghanistan. I can see no future there for myself and my brothers. The only images that enter my mind are negative. In Afghanistan today, children – especially girls – are subjected to kidnapping, rape, forced labour and many other terrible things. If I’m sent back, I could become one of them.”
“Taibeh’s story is emblematic of the cruel and dehumanising policies of many European governments, who are turning a blind eye to the reality of life in Afghanistan in order to increase the number of returns. Afghanistan is not safe for anyone. Would ministers be happy to send their own teenage daughters to this “safe” country?” said Charmain Mohamed.
“Deporting the Abbasi family to Afghanistan would be a heartless and unnecessary move, robbing three young people of their future. We stand with Taibeh her friends, and all the other Afghans at risk of being returned. We call on Norway to immediately stop all returns to Afghanistan and send a strong message to the world that returning Afghan asylum-seekers is dangerous, immoral and illegal.”
Norway is one of the European countries that returns the most Afghans – not just in proportion to its small population of 5 million, but in sheer total numbers. According to the Afghan authorities, 32% (97 out of 304 people) of returns in the first four months of 2017 came from Norway.
The binding international legal principle of non-refoulement means that European countries cannot transfer anyone to a place where they are at a real risk of serious human rights violations. Returning asylum-seekers to Afghanistan, even as violence escalates, is a brazen violation of international law.