Afghan deportations cancelled at last minute ahead of possible UK policy change

Afghanistan: Reports suggest security has fallen apart since UK and US departure
Afghanistan: Reports suggest security has fallen apart since UK and US departure
Ian Dunt By

A charter flight full of deportees to Afghanistan was cancelled late last night, after lawyers won a last-minute reprieve for the people on board.

As reported last week, legal firm Duncan Lewis had been urgently seeking relief for the people on the flight ahead of a judicial review today into whether UK deportations to Afghanistan are safe given the deteriorating security situation.

But even with the judicial review set to take place today, the Home Office tried to press ahead with the removals last night.

Duncan Lewis lodged a number of applications for judicial review for those due to be removed. Each one was granted interim relief yesterday afternoon. But with 56 people in total on the plane, the firm kept pressing for generic relief which would apply to all deportees and mean they did not need to be dealt with on an individual basis.

Late yesterday evening, an out-of-hours application at the court of appeal by Lady Justice Rafferty granted generic relief to those on the charter flight just before it was due to depart at 23:30 BST.

Next, the legal firm will try to show Britain cannot safely return deportees to Afghanistan due to the deterioration in security since allied forces started pulling out of the country.

In February, Afghanistan's minister for refugees and repatriation, Hossein Alami Balkhi, said European countries could not safely return people to his country. He stated that 80% of the country could not be considered safe. Anywhere outside of Kabul is not considered secure, while the capital itself does not have the infrastructure to look after the vulnerable people being forcibly removed from Europe.

Unaccompanied women or children, people with mental health problems or physical disabilities, and those who come from dangerous provinces are not being accepted back by the Afghan government, even though European countries continue to send them.

Analysts expect a new memorandum of understanding to be debated between the UK and Afghan government after the election, to reflect the new security situation.

In the meantime, Duncan Lewis will argue that it has a fresh claim from the Afghan deportees because of the new information about the lack of security in Afghanistan. If the judicial review is successful it would give the deportees back their right of appeal and could lead to new UK 'country guidance' for Afghanistan. If the guidance is in line with reports from journalists, NGOs and the UN it would likely end deportations to the country.


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