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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 08:27 GMT
UK 'to expel Afghan asylum seekers'
Kabul
The UK says life is returning to normal in Afghanistan
Britain may shortly begin ordering thousands of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, according to a home office minister.


Nine times out of ten, they are young single men and they have been fleeing the Taleban

Lord Rooker
In a interview with the Independent newspaper, immigration minister Lord Rooker said Afghanistan was becoming a safe country after the fall of the Taleban, removing one of the main reasons for Afghans seeking asylum in Britain.

However the Refugee Council, an independent body which campaigns for the rights of refugees, said Afghanistan was still too unstable for Britain to consider a radical change in its asylum policy.

Afghanistan provides the most asylum seekers coming to Britain each year, according to government figures.

Between July and September last year, more than 2,500 Afghans sought refuge in Britain.

'Nation building'

"Afghans, month in, month out, are in the top three of people coming here to claim asylum," Lord Rooker told the newspaper.

"Nine times out of ten, they are young, single men and they have been fleeing the Taleban.

"Well, the Taleban's not there anymore now are they?" said Rooker.

Asylum claims were being examined on a case-by-case basis, he added, using the same criteria employed to determine the status of refugees from the breakaway Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

"Most of them (Kosovars) have gone back.

"They have been returned because of stability and nation building. Afghanistan will be in that position," Lord Rooker added.

Somalia

No one has been sent back to Afghanistan from the UK since 1978 as the country has been considered too dangerous and hostile.

Somalia is the second-largest source of asylum seekers with 2,265 applicants arriving in the UK last year and most were allowed to remain.

According to Lord Rooker, Britain is also "on the verge of being able to return people to certain parts of Somalia" because large areas of the country were now being run by "good local government".

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