Schoolgirl will not be deported to Afghanistan


A 14-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl threatened with deportation with her family back to Afghanistan, from where she was brought a decade ago, has won the right to stay in the Netherlands.

The fate of Sahar Hbrahimgel became a cause célèbre when the Dutch government, instead of accepting a court decision that Sahar should be allowed to remain on the grounds that she had become “westernised”, appealed that decision to the Supreme Court at the end of March.

Sahar’s lawyer Paul Stieger had contended that Sahar – who speaks Dutch, is in the pre-university stream at school and hopes to study medicine – would be in danger from the Taliban and other extremist groups if she were returned to Afghanistan. Unusually, that contention was publicly supported by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

However last week, just days before the Supreme Court appeal, immigration minister Gerd Leers asked the court to delay hearing the case to allow him to assess the effect of the planned deportation on her education.

Finally, at the weekend, Sahar received the news that she and her family will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands – a landmark decision which will have implications for hundreds of asylum-seeking families whose children have been raised and educated here.

The minister’s decision was based on a special report by his department which advised him: “Girls who have lived a long time abroad and then return to Afghanistan stand out in the street.

“Even if they change their appearance by wearing a headscarf, they are still identifiable as foreign by the way they behave – for instance, saying what they think and talking loudly.”

As a result, Mr Leers said he accepted that the ages of 10 to 18 were crucial in terms of westernisation and therefore girls within that age bracket should not in future be returned to Afghanistan. However, this would not apply where the families involved could be shown to have deliberately frustrated the deportation process.

As many as 400 other Afghan girls are believed to be in a similar situations. Of those, as many as 50 could be told they can now remain.