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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Afghans win right to stay in UK
Ariana Airlines plane at Stansted
The men were tried at the Old Bailey following the incident
Nine Afghan men arrested after a hijacking incident at Stansted Airport have won the right to stay in the UK.

They were jailed in 2001 for hijacking an Afghan Ariana Boeing 727.

But in June 2003 the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions because a mistake was made in directing the jury.

A hearing has found though the Home Office was right to refuse asylum, the men should not have faced deportation to Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the Immigration Appellate Authority had ruled that the men would be in danger of attack from members of the Taleban if they were deported.

'Disappointed by decision'

"It said to return them would be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights," she said.

The spokeswoman said the Home Office would be appealing against this part of the decision.

"We are naturally disappointed by the decision," she said.

The original trial of the men was told that during the three-day stand-off at Stansted Airport in February 2000 they had threatened to kill passengers and crew.

Safe returns rules

But under the Home Office's own rules, failed asylum seekers from Afghanistan can only be returned if they are from the region of the capital, Kabul.

Women in Afghanistan
UK Govt responsibilities:
Pay for travel and resettlement
Pre-departure vaccinations
Advice or help with job training

Official government assessors accept that despite the fall of the Taleban, the rest of the country remains too dangerous for returns because of continued divisions and power struggles between different groups.

Refugee groups continue to oppose forced returns to Kabul, which are continuing in small numbers, saying no area of the country is entirely safe.

In June, Afghanistan's interim president Hamid Karzai asked Nato to provide more troops to guarantee security so that the country's first democratic presidential elections could safely take place in October.

The poll has been twice postponed because officials say increased violence from militants opposed to elections. Remnants of the Taleban regime are thought to be behind a string of recent bomb attacks on women election workers.

The UK government has introduced a number of voluntary returns packages which aim to help people who wish to go home do so - but take-up rates are low.

One of these schemes sponsors highly-qualified Afghans, such as engineers or doctors living in the UK, to return to their home regions and help with reconstruction.

Another of the schemes, aimed at those still in the asylum system, offers assistance-in-kind back in Afghanistan if they agree to return.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Immigration judges ruled that if they went back to Afghanistan, they could still be in danger"

Afghans win hijack appeal
22 May 03  |  UK
Afghan hijackers jailed
18 Jan 02  |  UK News
Special report: Hijack at Stansted
14 Feb 00  |  UK News
Hijack ruling sends 'wrong message'
23 May 03  |  Politics

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