Denmark's participation in a European project to establish a centre in Kabul to relocate unaccompanied, rejected teenage asylum seekers is being roundly criticised by human rights activists and researchers.
Claus Haagen Jensen, a lawyer and professor at Copenhagen Business School, believes that unaccompanied minors could not be guaranteed protection by UN refugee conventions if they are sent to Kabul. Jensen said that Denmark would be violating human rights agreements if it sends the children back.
“The refugee convention says simply that if we know that there is the risk of torture or other inhumane or degrading treatment, which could very easily be the case when conditions are so miserable in Afghanistan, we can not send them back," Jensen told Politiken newspaper.
Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, an associate professor at Copenhagen University, said that the country has in the past operated under the non-refoulement concept contained in UN refugee conventions that obligates the country to protect people at risk of human rights violations if they are returned to a dangerous area.
"If Denmark deports minors to countries where they risk being killed by the Taleban or experience other degrading or chaotic conditions, then we are breaking the non-refoulement agreements," Lemberg-Pedersen said to Politiken.
There are currently 24 children at risk of being deported. The Justice Ministry is reportedly waiting on Afghan authorities to sign off on the agreement that would establish the centre in Kabul, making the current government the first in Danish history to deport unaccompanied minors to Afghanistan.
Experts worry that Afghans returning from western countries are often considered military targets by the Taleban.
“The situation in Kabul is extremely dangerous, and it is likely that theses centres would become targets for attacks by rebel forces who want to attack the West," Nando Sigona, a senior researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, told Politiken.
It was because the minors' security could not be guaranteed that Socialdemokraterne (S), Socialistisk Folkeparti and Radikale voted in 2010 against the then Venstre-led government’s proposal to send minors to relocation centres.
Since then, the current government has apparently had a change of heart and announced that it would move forward with Ventre’s proposal.
Trine Bramsen (S), the leader of the parliamentary committee on immigration and integration affairs, says the government is working to ensure the refugee’s safety.
"We are negotiating with the Afghan government to ensure the safety of the minors,” Bramsen told Politiken. “Then we believe the project can be implemented.”
The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (S), would not comment while the project is still being negotiated but told Politiken that any Danish participation would ”be done with full respect for international human rights and the international obligations to which Denmark is bound”.