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New Country Guidance case on Afghan Sikhs

At long last the long awaited new Country Guidance case on Sikhs from Afghanistan is out. The case is TG and others (Afghan Sikhs persecuted) (CG) [2015] UKUT 595 (IAC) and the headnote reads:

(i) Some members of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan continue to suffer harassment at the hands of Muslim zealots.

(ii) Members of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan do not face a real risk of persecution or ill-treatment such as to entitle them to a grant of international protection on the basis of their ethnic or religious identity, per se. Neither can it be said that the cumulative impact of discrimination suffered by the Sikh and Hindu communities in general reaches the threshold of persecution.

(iii) A consideration of whether an individual member of the Sikh and Hindu communities is at risk real of persecution upon return to Afghanistan is fact-sensitive. All the relevant circumstances must be considered but careful attention should be paid to the following:

a. women are particularly vulnerable in the absence of appropriate protection from a male member of the family;

b. likely financial circumstances and ability to access basic accommodation bearing in mind

  • Muslims are generally unlikely to employ a member of the Sikh and Hindu communities
  • such individuals may face difficulties (including threats, extortion, seizure of land and acts of violence) in retaining property and / or pursuing their remaining traditional pursuit, that of a shopkeeper / trader
  • the traditional source of support for such individuals, the Gurdwara is much less able to provide adequate support;

c. the level of religious devotion and the practical accessibility to a suitable place of religious worship in light of declining numbers and the evidence that some have been subjected to harm and threats to harm whilst accessing the Gurdwara;

d. access to appropriate education for children in light of discrimination against Sikh and Hindu children and the shortage of adequate education facilities for them.

(iv) Although it appears there is a willingness at governmental level to provide protection, it is not established on the evidence that at a local level the police are willing, even if able, to provide the necessary level of protection required in Refugee Convention/Qualification Directive terms, to those members of the Sikh and Hindu communities who experience serious harm or harassment amounting to persecution.

(v) Whether it is reasonable to expect a member of the Sikh or Hindu communities to relocate is a fact sensitive assessment. The relevant factors to be considered include those set out at (iii) above. Given their particular circumstances and declining number, the practicability of settling elsewhere for members of the Sikh and Hindu communities must be carefully considered. Those without access to an independent income are unlikely to be able to reasonably relocate because of depleted support mechanisms.

(vi) This replaces the county guidance provided in the cases of K (Risk – Sikh – Women) Afghanistan CG [2003] UKIAT 00057 and SL and Others (Returning Sikhs and Hindus) Afghanistan CG [2005] UKAIT 00137.

The decision was apparently signed on 20 August 2015 but has only been issued now, some three months later. One wonders why. That is nothing compared to the total duration of the litigation, though. The main hearing was on 31 March 2014 and it has taken over a year and a half for the decision to be issued.

Colin Yeo
Colin Yeo A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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