Last week we wrote about the UK Government plans of Resettlement of Afghans following Taliban recapture of Afghanistan, the government’s announcement of a new settlement programme to allow Afghans refuge in the UK as the Taliban seized Afghanistan.
A week on, the reality of resettling Afghans in the west is becoming clearer as States grapple between the practicalities of resettlement and the moral obligation to protect human rights across the globe.
The principle of non-refoulement is a key component of the 1951 Refugee Convention (which can be found at Article 33). The principle, which is enshrined in international law, states that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face a serious threat to their life and freedom, where they face torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment or other irreparable harm, or would be likely in danger of persecution. 70 years on from the Convention’s signing, some are concerned that fundamental principles like this one are becoming lost to the individual concerns of countries.
The principle of non-entrée seems to have taken over across certain European countries, where many fear that the continent will not be able to cope with a migration crisis on the same scale as the 2015-16 Syrian crisis, which saw over 1 million migrants fleeing to Europe in a very short period of time. The thinking behind this is that if a country does not let an asylum seeker into the country, then it does not need to consider their case or its own obligations under international law. This shift might well be a result of the significant rise in the number of refugees globally over the last decade – which has doubled to roughly 20 million people. Some 68% of them come from just 5 countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
In relation to the current situation for Afghans, some countries in Europe (such as Germany), as well as the UK, have made public commitments to take in a much greater number of Afghan refugees than normal. Other European countries have publicly voiced their concern with being able to do this, such as Greece and France. Even more concerning is the potential risk to asylum seeker’s human rights as they get pushed back and forth between Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, as the President of the Belarus uses migration as a tactic to lash back against EU sanctions in the country. As a result, Poland are a good example of a country upholding the principle of non-entrée, and turning refugee’s back at the boarder during the current climate.
British and Irish authorities are reported to be prioritising and fast-tracking Afghanistan applications, giving full consideration to the current humanitarian context. However, we will have to wait to see how much impact this has on waiting times, entrance into the country, and support to travel in a secure and legal way. The standard waiting time on an application at any other time, for example, could be up to 12 months.
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