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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Kabul sounds refugee warning
Asylum seekers trying to enter the Channel Tunnel in France
Many refugees try to cross into Britain from France

Afghanistan's minister for refugees has called on Britain and other European countries not to force asylum seekers back to Afghanistan.


If the outside world wanted to help Afghanistan, it should not put pressure on Afghans to go back immediately

Enayetullah Nazeri, Afghan minister
Enayetullah Nazeri is in Europe for talks with Britain and France to try to finalise tripartite agreements with them and the UN refugee agency on the voluntary return of Afghan asylum seekers from these countries.

But speaking to the BBC after talks with a British Home Office minister, Mr Nazeri warned against any attempts to pressurise people into returning immediately.

He said such pressure would only increase pressure on Afghanistan's overstretched transitional administration led by President Hamid Karzai.

Volunteers welcome

The pressure on Afghan asylum seekers in Europe is clearly growing.

Unemployed Afghans look for jobs in Kabul Market
Afghans face shortages of basic facilities at home
Governments take the view that the reason many of them originally claimed asylum - the Taleban movement - is now gone.

The European Commission recently said it was giving high priority to voluntary return schemes for Afghans.

Britain is one of several developed countries to have introduced a scheme of its own, offering many Afghan asylum seekers grants to encourage them to go home and rebuild their lives.

But it has also indicated that it is moving towards the forcible return of failed asylum seekers who refuse to go back voluntarily.

Both of these issues were addressed in talks in London between Mr Nazeri and a British Home Office minister, Beverley Hughes.

Afterwards, Mr Nazeri told the BBC that his government had no problem with taking back people who returned to Afghanistan voluntarily.

But he said he was opposed to the idea of Afghans being forced back, or put under pressure to return, at this stage.

No decisions yet

Mr Nazeri mentioned the problems returning Afghans would face at home, including a lack of housing, employment, food and proper education.

Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai's government faces many pressures

Such problems could trigger a new wave of internal displacement and, in turn, put further pressure on Afghanistan's struggling transitional government.

"If the outside world wanted to help Afghanistan", said Mr Nazeri, "it should not put pressure on Afghans to go back immediately."

He said no final decision had been reached during his talks on the signing of a tripartite agreement governing returns from Britain; the Afghan cabinet needed to discuss the issue further.


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19 Sep 02 | Politics
12 Sep 02 | UK
14 Jun 02 | South Asia
28 Jan 02 | Politics
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