Afghan Teenager, Deported from Sweden, Killed in Kabul

On May 30, Sweden deported to Afghanistan 20 asylum seekers whose claims for protection had been rejected. Less than a week later, on June 3, one of them, a teenager, was killed in an explosion in the capital Kabul at the funeral procession for a man killed during anti-government protests there.

The rejected asylum seeker was an ethnic Hazara originally from Ghazni, a province that has become increasingly unsafe as fighting between government forces and the Taliban has intensified.

Swedish authorities reportedly rejected his asylum claim because they found his story to be vague and because he had spent a long time in Iran. They also disputed his age, determining him a 19-year-old adult even though he said he was 17.

Although the Swedish authorities appear not to have explicitly determined he would be safe in Kabul, it is implicit in their decision to deport him there.

European countries have increasingly rejected the asylum claims of Afghans without denying their protection needs. They do not contest that Afghan refugees from provinces like Ghazni are fleeing real and severe threats, but deny them refugee status on the grounds that they can be sent to Kabul, which is deemed safe. Many are returned to Kabul despite coming from other parts of Afghanistan. This only adds to the ranks of Afghanistan’s 1.5 million internally displaced people.

The idea that Kabul is considered “safe” for Afghans has real repercussions. The approval rate has plummeted for Afghan asylum claims registered by the top five European countries receiving Afghan asylum seekers, including Sweden. Across these five countries, protection grants have dropped from approximately 80 percent in the first two quarters of 2015 to roughly 45 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

But Kabul is not safe. The massive suicide bombing that rocked the capital on May 31, killing at least 150 people, and the attack on the funeral procession speak for themselves. Additionally, in a February report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Kabul was one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan.

Two days after the suicide attack near the German Embassy, the German government rightly suspended deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers to Kabul. Other European countries should do the same. It shouldn’t take any more deaths of deportees to dispel the myth that Kabul is a safe place of refuge.