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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Deported Afghan paints sad picture

Kylie Morris
BBC correspondent in Kabul

In a leafy Kabul suburb, Faridullah Baraki carefully brushes another layer of white paint on to the windowsill of a house he could never afford to live in.

Faridullah Baraki
Faridullah Baraki is not convinced Afghanistan is now safe
These streets, dappled with summer blossom, are the territory of international workers, Afghan commanders and wealthy families.

The Baraki clan live 12 people to two rooms, in another part of the capital.

They had a house once, but it was sold to pay for Faridullah's bid for asylum in Britain.

He stayed for two years in Birmingham - he paid smugglers $8,000 (4,900) for the privilege.

Now, he has been sent home - among the first planeloads of Afghan asylum seekers who have been forcibly repatriated to Afghanistan by the British authorities.

Difficult trip

When he arrived back, a German aid agency helped him to find work with a local construction company - he is becoming a house painter.

Pakistani troops check the belongings of returning Afghan refugees
The UN fears the British example may be followed by Pakistan

But while the paint dries, he is left to contemplate the unexpected turn his life has taken.

It took six months for him to reach the UK - he says it is impossible even to begin to explain how difficult the trip was.

He arrived in Dover and was then shifted to Birmingham.

He reels off the house number and street address with a smile.

He lived with four Afghan friends there but had no right to work legally.

He picked onions and flowers to make some cash.

He says the British people were very nice but he is devastated by the decision of the UK Government to send him back.

He says given half a chance he would leave again.

But now he has no money to begin another campaign for asylum.

Faridullah says he chose to try to go to Britain because it had better asylum rules than other European countries.

He says he thought the British would help because the fighting that had ruined Afghanistan was orchestrated by foreign countries.

Under fire

It was the fighting that forced people to leave. He adds wistfully that if there had been peace, it would not have been necessary to go.

Boys play in a wrecked car in Kabul
Afghanistan is still in ruins after years of war

Britain says it is now safe for asylum seekers to return to Afghanistan.

But Faridullah is not convinced. He says you hear of more problems every day, that the government is new and that in the provinces there is still fighting.

The UK has come under fire for forcibly repatriating refugees.

Afghanistan's refugee minister, Enayetullah Nazeri, says he is thankful to Britain for the hospitality shown to Afghans.

But he asks that the UK stay true to the spirit of an agreement it signed with the Afghan Government and the United Nations.

He says all repatriations should be voluntary.

The UN says there is no legal barrier to prevent Britain sending home Afghan refugees, but is worried by the precedent it sets for other countries.

Maki Shinohara, who works with the UN refugee agency in Kabul says "a couple of dozen flights won't break the society" but expresses a concern that Britain's actions might send a message to neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan, that could open the floodgates of repatriation.

There are still three million Afghan refugees encamped inside their borders.

Faridullah's workmates say that what has happened to him is very unfortunate.

They say he should be allowed to go back to the UK to earn money to help his family.

That's unlikely. For now, he will have to keep painting and keep hoping that luck turns his way.


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