Western deportation to Afghanistan before Taliban takeover ‘shameful’

Western nations behaved “shamefully” by deporting people to Afghanistan before leaving the nation to the Taliban, an advocate for Afghan refugees has said.

Abdul Ghafoor, the director of the Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organisation (Amaso), said some nations were trying to deport Afghans back to the nation even until the day Kabul fell.

“I have been advocating against the deportation to Afghanistan for the past six years… my fear was what we are witnessing today,” the 35-year-old told the PA news agency.

“It’s shameful to see that some of the countries were insisting (on deportations) until the last day – until Kabul had collapsed.”

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Abdul Ghafoor has worked for year helping displaced Afghans in his country, including those deported by the UK (Abdul Ghafoor)

Mr Ghafoor only named Belgium and Austria among countries that were insisting on deportations until the Taliban had taken Kabul, but added the UK has been “very tough” on Afghan refugees.

Home Office statistics released this week show a total of 6,033 Afghan nationals had enforced returns from the UK since 2010 – but only 10 have happened in the most recent 12 months.

The highest number in any 12-month period was 1,392 in year to June 2011, while the lowest was the 10 returns in year to March 2021.

“The UK has been very tough towards refugees, especially Afghan refugees,” Mr Ghafoor said.

“Those who were deported and those I had a chance to meet… among them were people who actually had been granted asylum until they were 18.

“As soon as they were 18, everything was ripped again from them – everything was taken and they were in limbo.”

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Abdul Ghafoor fled Afghanistan in the week after Kabul fell (Abdul Ghafoor)

My Ghafoor said those deported to Afghanistan are at a higher risk of being targetted by the Taliban.

“Afghan returnees, among them you have Christian converts, atheists who have changed their religion,” he said.

“To the Taliban… they are infidels.”

Mr Ghafoor said most European countries “including the UK” are not offering enough legal routes for refugees to travel to their countries.

“If you want to stop illegal migration let’s do it – but what’s your alternative? What legal or safer ways do you have for refugees?” he added.

Separate Home Office figures show 3,476 Afghan nationals have been refused entry at UK ports since 2010 – but just 167 in the year to March 2021.

The UK government has promised it would take up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, with as many as 5,000 in the first year, following the Taliban takeover.

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
The Home Office has promised 5,000 refugees will be accepted from Afghanistan in the next year (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“I don’t think (5,000) is enough… there are millions of people suffering,” Mr Ghafoor said.

“I don’t sleep at night, just worried by my fellow Afghans back in Afghanistan.”

Mr Ghafoor was working in his office in Kabul when the capital fell on August 15.

He quickly had to burn documents to protect thousands of Taliban targets, including his staff and the displaced he helps.

He then went into hiding for fear his work made him a target for the Taliban, before fleeing on an evacuation flight to Germany with his family several days later.

“They were the most horrible experiences of my life,” Mr Ghafoor said.