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rutor 2018 februari
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HEMENGLISHFARR policy in EnglishInternal flight alternatives and security assessments

Internal flight alternatives and security assessments

FARR is deeply concerned over the recurrent practice of the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA) to issue judicial guidelines in relation to countries plagued by serious armed conflict through which the agency prematurely deems the prevailing security situation in the country to be at a level where asylum seekers would not face a risk of indiscriminate violence upon their return to the country. Once such a security assessment has been made, the agency is highly reluctant to roll it back.

Afghanistan was recently deemed the most dangerous country in the world. Yet, despite the highly volatile and unstable security situation in Afghanistan and the spike in serious terrorist attacks seen in Kabul for the past few months, the Migration Agency’s judicial guidelines currently deem Kabul, Herat or Mazar-e-Sharif as reasonable and relevant internal flight alternatives for male adults over the age of 18 and adult couples regardless of whether the asylum seeker has previously resided in these areas or has a network in those areas. Provided that there is an existing network in those areas, vulnerable groups such as female asylum seekers and families with children may also be returned to Kabul, Herat or Mazar-e-Sharif provided that an individual assessment of their asylum claim leads to a decision that they should be granted protection in Sweden.

According to the judicial guidelines, unaccompanied children under the age of 18 are to be granted subsidiary protection and are not to be forcibly returned to Afghanistan at all. Prior to the legislative changes adopted in July 2016, successful asylum applicants were regularly granted permanent residence permits. However, with the new legislation in place – asylum seekers are instead granted temporary residence permits. For children under the age of 18, this means that they are granted residence permits until they became 18. Once they have reached the age of 18, they can be returned to Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif or Herat without the existence of a network in those areas. Little consideration is given to the mental and cognitive maturity of the individual asylum seeker or to whether he or she has grown up in a country outside of Afghanistan.

In contrast to UNHCR guidelines, the Migration Agency has rarely considered the dangers a returned asylum seeker may face en route to the internal flight alternative.

Neither do the proposed internal flight alternatives provide effective and durable protection for those returned, as recommended by the UNHCR. Instead, many of those who have been returned to Afghanistan from Sweden soon choose to start their journey back to Europe again.

The Afghan government does not accept the forcible return of families with children from Sweden. Meanwhile, the Migration Agency finds that the refusal of the Afghan government is not enough to grant the families temporary residence permits due to the impossibility of enforcing the deportation decisions since the Afghan government would have accepted their return if the families had collaborated in accessing the relevant travelling documents. Thus, many families whose asylum applications have been rejected find themselves in limbo.

A more recent example of a judicial guideline adopted on the basis of a prematurely adopted security assessment is the example of Syria, where the Migration Agency adopted new judicial guidelines regarding Syria on the basis of a new security assessment in August of this year. According to the guideline, the asylum claims of asylum seekers from Syria are now to be assessed on an individual basis. Previously permits were granted on a general basis given the level of generalized violence in Syria. Now asylum seekers originating from Damascus and who have a network in Damascus may be returned to Damascus.

Due to the recent events in North east Syria, the Migration Agency issued an amendment to their guidelines last week putting a halt to the assessment of all asylum applications originating from Hassakeh. According to the agency’s legal director, the halt of the assessments was due to the agency’s inability to assess how the conflict will develop. This is a classic example of how premature assessments of extremely volatile violent conflicts leads to a patchwork of internal flight alternatives which in practice exclude refugees from effective protection.




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