Afghanistan is safe, asylum seeker told

IPSWICH asylum seeker Naematullah Rahmati has been told he must return to Afghanistan because his life is no longer in danger and the country is reasonably stable.

IPSWICH asylum seeker Naematullah Rahmati has been told he must return to Afghanistan because his life is no longer in danger and the country is reasonably stable.

However today, the Foreign Office is issuing a strong warning to westerners not to enter Afghanistan unless their trip is essential, because it is still a dangerous place to be.

As hope of a reprieve continues to dwindle for Mr Rahmati in his bid to stay in Britain, Ipswich MP Chris Mole said there was nothing more he can do to help the 21-year-old's case.

He also added that, despite the UK having to provide sanctuary for alleged Al Qaida sympathisers, such Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, this could not be used to further Mr Rahmati's case.

As reported in yesterday's Evening Star, the asylum seeker must leave his home, girlfriend and employment behind, and fly to Kabul by next Monday or face being removed from the country.

But when he returns to his homeland, Mr Rahmati will not be able to apply for re-entry into the UK at the British Embassy in Kabul, because it is deemed to too dangerous to apply for visas there. So he will be faced with having to travel across Afghanistan in his attempt to get to the British Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "Afghan visa applicants should apply via Pakistan, as there is currently no visa service in Afghanistan. The UK does not currently offer a visa service in Afghanistan, as the security situation does not allow us to do this. It would put both staff and applicants at risk."

Today Mr Mole stressed unless there had been a significant change in circumstances backed by new evidence relating to the mechanic's life being in danger in his homeland, it would be futile for him to speak on Mr Rahmati's behalf again.

He said: "I did that two years ago and that's why he's still here now. I think Mr Rahmati's difficulty is that the reason he gave to stay was because there were concerns about returning people to Afghanistan at that time."

Mr Mole said since then there have been elections in Afghanistan and the situation is becoming increasing stable for civilians in Kabul.

"Reports say there are bits of Afghanistan which are unstable and dangerous, but by and large, people can go about their business in Kabul now.

"Mr Rahmati's reason for asylum originally, was to do with the Taliban. That outfit's well and truly in the past where Afghanistan is concerned. At this stage there are not many options open to him."

While Mr Rahmati, who came to Britain aged 16 and lives in Victoria Street, has exhausted the appeal process, other foreign nationals who are considered dangerous are still allowed to live in the country.

It is an irony which is not lost on Mr Mole, who said: "The reason those circumstances exist is because there are a number of individuals, as undesirable as they are, who would be under threat if there were to be returned to their country of origin. I appreciate some people might say that's tough, but one thing we cannot do is to return people in the certain knowledge that they would be killed.

"The reason we offer asylum is that they are demonstrating they are at risk and the civil authorities would not be able to offer them any kind of protection.

"On an individual level, you can only feel terribly sorry for people who find themselves displaced and out of touch with their loved ones.

"Mr Rahmati would have to be able to demonstrate he would be targeted by someone or some group.

"I have met him. He's a smashing chap and he's worked hard, but that's not what the asylum system is for.

"If Mr Rahmati was to return to Afghanistan there would be nothing to stop him making a case based on what steps he must take to come back as an economic migrant, but there are of course, no guarantees that would necessarily succeed just because someone is a good person or would make a good citizen. The asylum procedure is not the way to deal with that."

Mr Rahmati understood the MP's stance and believes there is little else he can see that can be done.

He said: "I am bit disappointed he can't help. At the moment I can't see anyone who can help me with my case."

We strongly advise against all but essential travel to Kabul and against all travel to other parts of Afghanistan.

On the evening of March 7, 2005, a British national was shot and killed by unknown attackers as he drove home after dinner in a Kabul restaurant.

The motives for the attack are unknown and the police are investigating. The attack happened in what was thought to be a relatively well-policed district of the city.

Until more is known, it would be sensible for those in Kabul to keep a low profile, and avoid all but essential travel after dark.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains serious and the threat to Westerners from terrorist or criminal violence, including kidnappings, remains high.

You should be aware that there is a widespread danger from mines and unexploded ordnance throughout Afghanistan.

You should be aware of the continuing high threat from terrorism within Afghanistan. Threats, specific or otherwise, are reported on an almost daily basis.

British nationals who remain in Afghanistan, particularly outside Kabul, should continue to reassess their position. You should exercise the utmost care and vary your routines.

You should avoid public places frequented by foreigners, including hotels, restaurants, shops and market places, especially at times of day when they are particularly busy and congested.

If, despite this travel advice, you travel outside Kabul you should only do so with reputable local guides and only to fully protected workplaces.

You should consider permanent armed protection. You should be aware that even these precautions can not guarantee your safety.

We advise against all travel outside Kabul. There have been a number of serious attacks on both Western and Afghan NGOs, (the Organisation for mine clearance and awareness), and on vehicles belonging to them, in which a number of people have been killed and injured.

Most attacks continue to occur in the south and east of Afghanistan, but there have been sporadic but serious incidents in other regions such as Badghis and Kunduz that have otherwise been considered comparatively secure.

Kandahar has seen a high number of attacks on Western interests.

Elsewhere, there have been a number of attacks within the last six months. On 19 January 2005, a suicide bomb attack left one dead and 23 people injured in Sherbarghan City in the northern province of Jowzjan.

There is a risk of further unrest in Jowzjan and the surrounding provinces (Balkh, Sar-e-Pol and Faryab.

There has been a series of attacks on the Kabul-Kandahar road in Zabul province, including the murder of a Turkish engineer and his Afghan security guard in December 2004.

There is also a risk arising from recurrent outbreaks of fighting between different Afghan groups.

WEBLINK: www.fco.gov.uk