Sweden is stopping all deportations to Afghanistan, citing the deteriorating security situation in the country. It comes after Finland last week became the first European country to announce a freeze on forced returns.
Sweden announced on Friday (July 16) that it was to stop all deportations to Afghanistan because of the worsening security situation in the country. The Swedish Migration Agency said that conditions had deteriorated "after the Taliban movement has taken control of large parts of the country."
"The decision is effective immediately and will be in force until further notice," Carl Bexelius, head of legal affairs at the Agency, said in a statement.
The suspension impacts several thousand Afghans whose asylum applications have been denied and have been ordered to leave the country.
"There are approximately 7,000 people in Sweden with deportation orders to Afghanistan. Half of these are directly affected by the ban on enforcement, while the other half currently have a temporary residence permit," said Bexelius.
No expulsions until further notice
The Swedish migration agency has published advice about the effects of the suspension:
- The Swedish Migration Agency will not enforce deportation or expulsion decisions to Afghanistan (send someone to Afghanistan) as long as the suspension is in place.
- The suspension is in place until further notice and the Migration Agency is constantly monitoring developments in the country. The Migration Agency will take a new position on enforcement to Afghanistan and the situation in general depending on the development of events.
- If a person has a legally enforceable decision, they do not need to apply for a stay of deportation.
- People affected by the suspension will receive assistance under the LMA (Swedish asylum seeker reception system). If the situation in Afghanistan changes and it becomes possible to re-issue the removal or expulsion order, the right to assistance ceases, unless it is manifestly unreasonable, one week after that date.
Worsening security situation
In early July, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation wrote a letter asking for a three-month suspension of deportations from Germany, Norway, Holland, France, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and the UK (Sweden was omitted). Aside from Sweden, Finland is the only country to have announced that it would halt forced returns.
Several thousand Afghans, especially young unaccompanied men, have travelled to Sweden, often through Iran, to seek asylum in recent years. Relatively large numbers have since been deported. Afghan surpassed Iraqi nationals in 2017 to become the largest group of nationals to be deported from Sweden, according to a recent report by Delmi, a Swedish migration policy research committee. Deportations from most European countries were halted during the coronavirus pandemic but resumed in December, 2020.
Since May, international troop withdrawals from the country and territorial gains made by the Taliban have stretched Afghan government forces and created a new wave of internally displaced people. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that in particular, the provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz, Balkh, Baghlan and Takhar had been affected by internal displacement.
The worsening conflict is also expected to cause more Afghans to seek safety in Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, which already host millions of refugees and have said that they will not be able to handle a new influx.
While the majority of Afghan refugees are hosted by neighboring countries, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned last month that Europe should brace for a new inflow of migrants from Afghanistan after the pull out of foreign troops.
"It is foreseeable that the withdrawal from Afghanistan will lead to an increase in immigration from that country of an as yet unknown quantity, but we all know it will be big," Draghi said.