Wednesday 22 November 2017

Woman (106) believed to be the world's oldest asylum seeker set to be deported

Bibikhal Uzbek was carried by her family from Afghanistan to Sweden (stock photo)
Bibikhal Uzbek was carried by her family from Afghanistan to Sweden (stock photo)

Maya Oppenheim

Sweden is set to deport a blind 106-year-old Afghan refugee who is believed to be the world’s oldest asylum seeker.

Bibikhal Uzbek was 105 years old when her son and grandsons carried her on their backs as they traversed rock-strewn mountain paths from Kunduz in northeastern Afghanistan through Iran and Turkey in the hope of seeking refuge in Europe in 2015.

Ms Uzbek, who is just weeks away from turning 107, had her application for asylum rejected by the Swedish migration agency and was ordered to return to Afghanistan.

The agency deem the family’s hometown of Kunduz, where heavy clashes occur between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, to be safe enough for the entire family to return.

Ms Uzbek, who claimed refugee status in Skaraborg county on the western coast of Sweden, had a stroke when her application for asylum was rejected in June and is now totally bedbound and unable to see, speak, or walk.

The family say she is physically unable to survive the trip back to Afghanistan and have filed an appeal for her to stay in Sweden to live out the final period of her life.

"I don't understand, why?"  Mohammad Uzbek, Bibikhal Uzbek's grandson, asked Al Jazeera.

"A hundreds and six years old. She doesn't see, she doesn't speak, she doesn't walk. She's sick," he added. "I don't understand, why? Why turn her down?"

He added: "In Afghanistan, there is war, there is death, problems with the Taliban and with Isil now. I don't understand why they want us to go back. Many people have died this year."

The Swedish migration agency said: “Advanced age is not in itself grounds for protection”.

Ms Uzbek, who is barely able to communicate and has been lying unresponsive in her bed since the deportation decision was reached, was one of 17 members of her family to make the long and exhausting journey via Germany where she was given a wheelchair.

Sweden’s Asylum Agency recently drew criticism for testing converted Christian asylum seekers about their knowledge of the religion.

Along with technical questions about their faith, they are tested on the difference between Orthodox and Protestant Churches and how many parts there are to the New Testament and quizzed on details about the sacrament.

In May, immigration lawyer Serpil Güngör said he often had to interrupt administrators to ask if the questions were relevant, given their complexity, telling Swedish public service broadcaster SVT he thought the questions were “terrible” and revealing he advised his clients to study the bible before their interviews.

Last year Sweden witnessed a record number of 4,542 asylum seekers withdraw applications and leave the country. The combined force of lengthy processing times, stringent rules on family reunion, difficulty in acquiring secure employment and pay-outs to migrants prompted the exodus.

(© Independent News Service)

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