106-year-old disabled Afghan refugee woman faces deportation from Sweden

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A 106-year-old Afghan woman who was carried by relatives through mountains, forests and deserts to Europe now faces deportation from Sweden.

The son and grandson of severely disabled Bibihal Uzbeki, who can barely speak, travelled by rail and on foot through the Balkans to the safety of Western Europe.

Their journey made headlines in 2015, during the height of the refugee influx to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn or repressive countries.

Two years later, Mrs Uzbeki and her 11 family members are living in the small village of Hova, in central Sweden. 

The rejection letter for her claim for asylum arrived during Ramadan. The family, which has appealed the decision, avoided telling the frail centenarian, but she became suspicious.

Rejected: Bibihal Uzbeki (AP)

“My sisters were crying,” said Mohammed Uzbeki, 22. “My grandmother asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ ” 

Soon after she understood that her request had been denied, Mrs Uzbeki’s health started failing and she suffered a stroke, according to the family. 

The Swedish Migration Agency confirmed in a statement that they had “taken a decision regarding an expulsion in the case,” adding “generally speaking, high age does not in itself provide grounds for asylum”. 

People whose applications are rejected are allowed up to three appeals, a process that can take a long time. The applications of other family members are at various stages in the appeals process. 

The family said that the plight of Afghans is being ignored by Swedish authorities. Many countries in Europe deny asylum to Afghans from parts of the country considered safe. 

“The reasoning from the migration agency is that it’s not unsafe enough in Afghanistan,” said Sanna Vestin, the head of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups. But she said many of the big cities cited as secure are not at the moment. 

Before their journey to Sweden, the family had been living illegally in Iran for eight years. They cited ongoing war and insecurity as their reasons for fleeing, but Mohammed Uzbeki said it was difficult to prove that the family faces a specific enemy if they return. 

“If I knew who was the enemy, I would have just avoided them,” he said, citing the Islamic State group, the Taliban and suicide bombers as possible dangers. 

“She still cannot speak properly, she has hallucinations,” he said of his grandmother.

“She says they are coming to kill us, we should run away.”

Reporting by Associated Press

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