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Sweden Is Sending This 106-Year-Old Asylum-Seeker Back to Afghanistan

Then, 105-year old Afghan regugee Bibihal Uzbeki from Kunduz, Afghanistan, rests in Croatia's main refugee camp at Opatovac, Croatia, near the border with Serbia, Oct. 27, 2015.
Marjan Vucetic/AP

Bibikhal Uzbek found safety in Sweden just two years ago, after fleeing war and poverty in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Uzbek, who turns 107 in a few weeks, traveled through Iran, Turkey, and Croatia on the backs of her son and grandson to seek asylum in Sweden, according to Quartz.

Unfortunately, Uzbek’s claim was just rejected and she now faces deportation.

Uzbek, like some 18,000 others according to the New York Times, has been living in Sweden, despite having her claim denied.

As anti-immigrant tension has risen in Sweden in recent months, the country is now focusing on deporting asylum-seekers whose claims have been denied, according to Quartz.

Throughout Europe’s migrant crisis, Sweden has been considered among the most refugee-friendly countries. With a population of less than 10 million people, Sweden has received the most refugees per capita of any European country to date, according to CNN.

At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, Sweden received over 160,000 asylum-seekers, according to CNN, though not all were granted asylum.

Read more: This Afghan Refugee Is About to Become the Youngest Female Pilot to Fly Around the World

In order to be granted asylum in Sweden the Swedish Migration Agency needs to determine that a person has well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to race, nationality, religious or political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, or affiliation to a particular social group, according to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which Sweden ratified in 1954. People seeking asylum also need to be able to show that they are at risk of being tortured, punished, or killed in the country they are fleeing.

Though the Swedish government has acknowledged that there continues to be a “severe security situation” in Afghanistan, it distinguishes between the level of conflict occurring within the different provinces, and considers some, like Uzbek’s native Kunduz to be
“safe areas.”

“The conflict in Afghanistan has thus not reached a level that would entitle all people from Afghanistan to receive a residence permit in Sweden,” according to the Swedish Migration Agency’s website.

The classification of some areas within conflict zones as “safe” is a policy applied across the European Union that has been criticized by groups like Human Rights Watch, particularly as the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.

Read more: 13 Photos That Show What Life Is Really Like in Afghanistan

According to the UN, the number of civilian deaths in the 16 year-long Afghan war reached a new high this year. The worsening violence in the country led Germany to halt its deportation of Afghans whose asylum claims were rejected earlier this month, except in exceptional circumstances.

Since Sweden has yet to follow suit, Uzbek’s will be forced return to Afghanistan, which could put her in harm’s way, particularly as she is blind, disabled, and recently suffered a stroke following news of her application’s rejection, according to Quartz.

The Swedish Migration Agency noted in a recent statement that though advanced age is a consideration in asylum assessments, it “is not in itself grounds for protection.”

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