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Some thoughts on the New Country Guidance case on Afghanistan.

The much-delayed Upper Tribunal Country Guidance case, AS (Safety of Kabul) Afghanistan CG [2020] UKIAT 00130 (IAC) has just been promulgated. It might be recalled that following AS (Afghanistan) v SSHD [2019] EWCA Civ 873 a statistical error was found in the original hearing (AS (Safety of Kabul) Afghanistan CG [2018] UKUT 118 (IAC)) so the case had to be reheard in part. Sensibly the Upper Tribunal took account of fresh developments in Afghanistan in relation to Kabul Province (not just Kabul) to deal with the risk of serious harm in Kabul (and so any Article 15 (c) of the Qualification Directive point) and the reasonableness of internal relocation to Kabul.

Now in outline the position the Tribunal adopted was to endorse the previous Country Guidance case AK (Article 15 (c) Afghanistan CG [2012] UKUT 00163 (IAC) [in which I and fellow Chambers member Emma Rutherford appeared for the Appellant], which as a result still remains Country Guidance. However, in my view the position is slightly more sympathetic in relation to relocation. Previously the Guidance had held that being an Internally Displaced Person in Kabul was in general neither unsafe nor unreasonable (save for alone women), although (see AK (supra) [243]) it would still be necessary to examine individual circumstances.

In the new Guidance, the head note (iii) in AS (supra) reads that in general it would not be unreasonable or unduly harsh for a single adult male in good health to relocate to Kabul even without specific connections or a support network, and even without a Tazkera. However and importantly, this is qualified by head note (iv) which states that a list of factors would need to considered as to whether a person fell into the general position as stated. The list is quite large, and includes age, support and connections with Kabul/Afghanistan, physical and mental health, language, education, and vocational skills.

Further points are then made in head note (v) as to matters to take into account, such as the familiarity with the social and cultural norms of the country, which may be affected by the age the person left the country, and the length of absence, and any support network/connection with Kabul.

Potentially then, given these factors to be taken into account, there is now a little more scope to argue against the reasonableness of internal relocation if a person can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in his home area of the country.

Stephen Vokes, Head of the Immigration, Asylum and Human Rights team, No.8 Chambers.