Australia’s High Court has delayed the deportation of a 65-year old Afghan man just hours before his scheduled expulsion. The Hazara man arrived in Australia in 2011 and claims he has not lived in Afghanistan for decades. If the man is ultimately deported, it would be one of the first Hazara expulsions from Australia in recent years.
The case will resume Thursday, when the court will decide if it has grounds to appeal his removal from Australia.
The Afghan, whose name the court has been withheld for security reasons, is illiterate and told authorities he has lost contact with relatives back home. He claims he left the country in the 1980s, fleeing persecution.
For a long period he lived in Quetta in Pakistan, but there, too, he felt persecuted because of his ethnic background.
In 2011, he arrived in Australia seeking asylum. Last year, his case was reviewed by Australia’s Refugee Review Tribunal, which rejected his application to stay in Australia permanently.
Hazaras are considered a persecuted ethnic minority in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan. Although the tribunal decided that it would be too dangerous for him to return to his home province of Uruzgan, it ruled he could be returned safely to the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The tribunal’s position has been disputed by Sonia Caton, the head of the Refugee Council of Australia.
“He has vulnerabilities such as his age, his illiteracy, the fact that he has no contacts or relatives at all in Kabul and hardly any in Afghanistan, would make him a very serious consideration for complementary protection, and no reasons were given for refusing complementary protection,” said Caton.
Lawyers representing the Australian government have argued that the Afghan man has had the opportunity over the past year to apply to delay his deportation but had failed to so.
Professor William Maley, from the Australian National University, said sending a Hazara back to Afghanistan could have catastrophic consequences.
“This is one of these rare cases where you can say with some confidence that the probability that those who orchestrate the return of someone like this to Kabul will end up having blood on their hands is pretty high,” said Maley.
Australia grants visas to about 20,000 refugees each year under various international agreements.