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Denmark to grant asylum to all women and girls from Afghanistan

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Denmark to grant asylum to all women and girls from Afghanistan
Afghan girls at a school in Kabul in September 2021. Denmark will grant asylum to girls and women from Afghanistan based on their gender alone. Photo: Wana News Agency/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s immigration authority will now grant asylum to women and girls from Afghanistan because of their gender alone.

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The Danish Refugee Appeals Board, Flygtningenævnet, confirmed in a statement late on Monday that it has changed practice, stating it will now grant take asylum to women and girls from Afghanistan “solely based on their gender”.

The decision was taken by during an extraordinary meeting undertaken by the appeals board.

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It cites “ongoing worsening conditions” for women and girls in Afghanistan as the basis for its decision.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International welcomed the decision and called it “better late than never”, broadcaster DR writes.

Women and girls in the Asian country have seen rights increasingly taken from them since the Taliban took control in 2021. Girls are now no longer allowed to go to school after 5th grade and women have been banned from working for foreign aid organisations. The Taliban has also banned female students from attending universities across the country.

In its decision the Refugee Appeals Board refers to a new report from the EU’s Agency for Asylum. In the report, the EU agency writes  that the “accumulation of various measures introduced by the Taliban, which affect the rights and freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan, amounts to persecution.”

“Such measures affect their access to healthcare, work, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, girls' right to education, among others”, it adds.

The Danish agency currently has five ongoing asylum cases with female Afghan nationals. Those persons can “in principle be granted residence” under asylum rules, it says in the statement.

The appeals board will also reopen all cases involving asylum for female applicants from Afghanistan which have been rejected since August 16th 2021, it said. This amounts to around 10 cases according to the statement.

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Additionally, the appeals board will assess whether there are grounds to reopen the cases of around 30 male asylum seekers from Afghanistan whose applications were rejected since August 16th 2021.

Afghans whose asylum claims were rejected before August 16th 2021 but who are still in Denmark can apply to have their cases reopened by the appeals board if they believe that the basis for the decision made on their cases has significantly changed based on the most recent background information, the appeals board writes in the statement.

The new Danish practice brings Denmark in line with Sweden in its treatment of Afghan refugees, according to news wire Ritzau.

Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, head of politics and documentation with Amnesty International Denmark, told DR it is “very positive that the Refugee Appeals Board now recognises the brutal persecution Afghan women and girls are subjected to”.

The human rights organisation has documented human rights abuses against women and girls in Afghanistan and had urged Denmark to change its practice.

“Action is being taken too late. But better late than never,” Lemberg-Pedersen said.

“We hope it means that these people’s fundamental rights will be taken seriously from now on,” he said.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights welcomed the decision in comments to DR.

“It is well known that women and girls in Afghanistan are subjected to gross violations of human rights and it has got worse and worse over the last 18 months,” the organisation’s director Louise Holck told DR.

“If it was only up to me to decide, this decision would have been made some time ago,” she said.

“But I think we should be pleased that asylum will from now on be given to women and girls because they are women and girls and for that reason are persecuted in Afghanistan,” she said.

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