Zuhal Pardis arrived in France in July 2019. She came with the aim of rejoining the father who she hadn’t seen since she was three years old, after he left Afghanistan 18 years ago. Now she has been told by the French authorities that she will be sent to Germany, where she first entered the EU, to seek asylum there.
"Zuhal is 22 years old," states the NGO La Cimade on its website under a petition to keep Zuhal in France with her father. “She wants to seek asylum in France and live with her last surviving family member, her father."
Zuhal’s father Najibullah has political refugee status in France, clarifies La Cimade and yet the prefect of the western region where they live, Seine-Maritime, wants to "expel Zuhal to Germany, a country which wouldn’t hesitate in sending her back to Kabul."
Zuhal and her father live in fear that her expulsion will come any day. La Cimade has opened a petition called "Saving Zuhal" in the hope that they can halt her impending expulsion. At the time of writing, 1,949 people signed the petition. La Cimade hopes to reach 3,000 before the end of March 2020.
Zuhal’s father fled Afghanistan 18 years ago after shellfire killed Zuhal’s mother and younger sibling in the family home. Zuhal’s father had been at work that day and escaped the attack. At the time, writes La Cimade, Zuhal was just three years old and her father left her in the care of her mother’s parents. Once Najibullah arrived in France he attempted to apply several times for family reunification and a legal visa but none of his attempts were successful.
In 2017, Zuhal’s maternal grandparents died and Zuhal pleaded with her father to help her leave the country in order to escape a forced marriage which was about to be imposed on her by her uncle. Zuhal takes up the story on La Cimade’s website in a direct appeal.
“When my grandmother died they [the family] threatened to marry me off and I fled. I managed to arrive in Germany but I was detained at the airport. My father drove from France in a car and picked me up and took me back to France to be with him. I had hoped to apply for asylum in France but they had already taken my fingerprints in Germany.” The French news portal Ouest France (West France) explains that Najibullah picked Zuhal up from an immigration center attached to Frankfurt airport.
Zuhal explains that she has been “Dublin-ed” that because the German authorities have her fingerprints the EU country of first entry is considered to be Germany. Therefore she is constrained under the Dublin convention to apply for asylum in Germany.
Zuhal continues, saying “the French state wants to send me next week to Germany where I know no-one. I am really scared because I know that in Germany they send Afghans back to their own country. Please help me stay close to the only family I have left, my father.”
At the beginning of September, Zuhal applied for asylum in the French region of Calvados, in the west of the country. By the beginning of October, the French prefect of the region announced their decision was to send her back to Germany under the Dublin agreement. With the help of La Cimade and the Human Rights League in Alencon, Zuhal managed to contest that decision but the administrative court then rejected her appeal. “Zuhal is now living in fear that she will be transferred to Germany in the next few days,” explains La Cimade’s press release.
'Not fair to send her to Germany'
La Cimade says it would not be fair to send Zuhal to Germany because the German government regularly deports people back to Afghanistan, a place where Zuhal’s life, they say, would be in danger.
Zuhal described the moment she was reunited with her father to the InfoMigrants’ Dari team by telephone. She said “seeing my father was like being born again. I want to live in France. I experienced huge challenges in Afghanistan. In my homeland I have no one left. I had no right to study and I had no freedom. They wanted to force me to marry.”
'No right to expel my daughter'
Her father Najibullah Pardis added that the French authorities “have no right to expel my daughter.” He explained again that he has plenty of evidence and documents which prove his claims that he repeatedly tried to apply for a legal way for Zuhal to join him in France. “When Zuhal was underage I applied for a visa but the French Embassy did not respond to my application in 2015.” He concluded that the French authorities held Zuhal’s destiny in their hands.
The news portal Ouest France featured the story of the father and daughter on their pages on November 19. They commented that in the photo the pain caused “just by the idea that they might separate this father and daughter who only recently reunited” was plain to see in the eyes of both Zuhal and Najibullah.
Najibullah has lived in Alencon since 2004 Ouest France wrote. Before he left Afghanistan he was a commander in the Afghan army. Under threat from the Taliban he was forced to leave the country and gained political asylum in France.
Najibullah remarried in Alencon and has another daughter who is 14 years old today, writes Ouest France. He has worked for a company called Vitraglass for the last 13 years. Until 2017, Zuhal studied law in Kabul but when her grandmother died, her uncles forbid her from returning to university and tried to force her into marriage. That’s when she escaped to Dubai and then Vietnam before arriving in Germany where she was stopped, reports Ouest France.
Zuhal will appeal the latest decision writes Ouest France. Her lawyer, based in Nantes believes they have no basis on which to refuse her. She is getting to know her half-sister and attends French classes three times a week, she is trying hard to integrate into the culture of the country which gave her father asylum, writes the newspaper. “In Germany she has no one,” they repeat.
Some quotes translated from the InfoMigrants Dari page by Amanullah Jawad