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Security fears spark fresh controversy in Afghan deportation row
French immigration officials face fresh criticisms over Wednesday’s deportation of Afghan migrants following reports that the three men hailed from dangerous areas of the war-torn country.
Days after France deported three illegal Afghan migrants, a fresh controversy was sparked over allegations that French immigration authorities got their facts wrong and that the three men hailed from dangerous areas of the war-torn country and not from relatively safe regions as French officials had earlier asserted.
The three men, aged 18, 19 and 22, were put on a joint Franco-British charter flight to the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday along with 24 other Afghan migrants from Britain.
It was the first such joint flight between the two EU nations and it came despite opposition from human rights groups and French opposition Socialists.
Before their departure, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson assured French media outlets that the three men, whose names were not officially disclosed, came from the Kabul area, "a region where there is no risk of bodily harm," he asserted.
But shortly after the men arrived in Kabul and registered themselves at the Afghan Ministry for Refugees and Repatriation, a senior Afghan official told a French TV station that the men came from dangerous parts of Afghanistan.
“I could tell you that the security situation where these three come from is pitiful,” Mohammad Omar Ayard, Afghan deputy minister for refugees, told France 2 television. “Now in this area there is war, al Qaeda and the Taliban. They can not return home and France shouldn't have deported them.”
Violent insurgency spreads across Afghanistan
The three men hailed from Baghlan and Parwan provinces in central Afghanistan and from Paktia in the southeast.
Attacks in Afghanistan have been spreading across the country in recent years, with a resurgent Taliban employing increasingly sophisticated means to target international troops as well as Afghan security personnel and ordinary citizens in areas that were once considered relatively stable.
While the Pashtun-dominated southeast has been the worst hit, the death toll from attacks in provinces around Kabul such as Kapisa, Loghar and Baghlan has been mounting in recent years.
In sharp contrast, the province of Paktia, a Pashtun-dominated province which lies along Afghan-Pakistan border, is widely considered an extremely dangerous area by security experts.
In a statement released Thursday, the French immigration ministry asserted that Afghan authorities had approved the deportations and that the three Afghans expelled from France did not originate from the areas most affected by the insurrection in the south of Afghanistan.
EU sets down conditions for deportation
The deportation came as the European Commission on Thursday set down conditions for the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers back to their war-torn country.
"It is of fundamental importance that national authorities make sure that the lives of the migrants sent back are not in danger once they are back in Afghanistan," European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot told the AFP news service. "National authorities have to make sure that the migrants in question do not wish to ask for international protection.
Wednesday’s deportation came a month after French police raided a migrant camp known as "The Jungle" in the northern port city of Calais, which has become a base for illegal passage to Britain via Channel ports or the undersea rail link.