On 12 October 2022, the Council for Alien Law Litigation ruled in a case (no. 278 653) concerning the international protection application of an Afghan national that arrived in Belgium as a minor and had been living there for more than six years.

In the assessment of facts and circumstances, the Belgian Council addressed the risk of persecution of returned Afghans who are or are perceived as westernized. The Council acknowledged that there is a negative perception among Taliban supporters of Afghans who have left Afghanistan, as they are seen as people without Islamic values or that flee from their previous actions, and that this could even be considered wrong and suspicious behaviour. It was further stated that the international protection requests from Afghans returning from the West should be assessed with caution as the perception and potential treatment of returnees is unclear. Although it is not possible to predict the concrete fate of the applicant’s profile coming to the attention of the Taliban, the Council held that his attributed Westernisation points to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

Regarding the individualized exposure to persecution upon return to Afghanistan of the applicant, the Council assessed the personal circumstances and concluded that the applicant was able to justify that he is integrated into Belgian society, works here and has an extensive social network. As the applicant arrived as a minor in Belgium, he spent an important and determinant phase of his life in Belgium, which has resulted in his allegations that this has influenced his values and visions. The Council agreed with the applicant in the affirmation that he seemed to have internalized fundamental Western social standards and values which defined his identity.

For all these reasons, the Council concluded that the applicant can be considered to have a well-founded fear of persecution of a perceived political conviction in case of return to Afghanistan and that there is no reasonable protection or internal alternative resettlement available in the country of origin. The Court thus decided to grant the applicant refugee status.

Based on unofficial translations from within the EWLU team.

We would like to thank Catherine Van Cutsem, lawyer in the Brussels Bar and at Alter Égaux, for bringing this case to our attention.