Amnesty warns EU about risks of deporting Christian converts back to Afghanistan

Afghans, whose asylum applications have been rejected, arrive from Germany in Kabul airport, Afghanistan December 15, 2016. | Reuters/Omar Sobhani

Amnesty International has warned European governments about the risks being faced by Afghan Christian converts and other asylum seekers who are being deported back to their country.

The charity has reported that 9,460 asylum seekers were forcibly sent back to their homeland by European states last year, despite the high risk of torture and death they face there.

"In their determination to increase the number of deportations, European governments are implementing a policy that is reckless and unlawful," said Anna Shea, Amnesty's researcher on refugee and migrant rights, as reported by The Independent.

"Wilfully blind to the evidence that violence is at a record high and no part of Afghanistan is safe, they are putting people at risk of torture, kidnapping, death and other horrors," she added.

Among those deported from European countries were unaccompanied children, some of whom were sent to parts of Afghanistan they were unfamiliar with and where did not know anyone, Amnesty noted.

The number of deportations has seen a 300 percent increase compared to the previous year, but the rate of asylum applications accepted by European governments has dropped from 60 percent in September to 33 percent in December last year.

In May 2017, an asylum seeker, referred to as Farid, was deported from Norway back to Afghanistan, despite not having lived in the war-torn country since he was a child.

"I am scared. I don't know anything about Afghanistan. Where will I go? I don't have funds to live alone and I can't live with relatives because they will see that I don't pray," he told Amnesty.

Farid had converted to Christianity while he was living as an asylum seeker in Norway, and he has reportedly shown Amnesty's researchers a video of his baptism. "People in Europe have humanity – they don't care which religion you are," he told the researcher in Kabul in May shortly after his deportation.

Deportees who are members of a religious minority, such as Christianity, are at risk of persecution in Afghanistan, but Farid, who is an ethnic Hazara, is also facing other threats in his province of origin because an enemy of his family previously attacked him. He reportedly showed the researchers "over a dozen deep scars across his legs, arms and torso" that resulted from the injuries he suffered from the attack.

The number of civilians being killed in Afghanistan has reportedly reached an all-time high. According to the United Nations, 11,418 civilians were killed or injured in the country last year, many of them perpetrated by groups including the Taliban and ISIS.