October 20, 2009 / 5:32 PM / in 8 years

France, UK to fly Afghan migrants to Kabul

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Britain plan to deport 16 illegal Afghan migrants in a joint flight late on Tuesday, a police source said, part of a crackdown that has met with an outcry from human rights groups.

French opposition Socialists also attacked the move, saying it was a violation of human rights to send the migrants back to Afghanistan given the security situation there.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson declined to comment, though he confirmed that France was in principle ready to deport migrants whose asylum claims had been rejected.

“At the same time, we said that there could be no return unless a certain number of conditions were met -- security at the destination, the possibility of reintegration,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a UMP party conference.

A spokesman for Britain’s Home Office (interior ministry) said it was their policy not to confirm or deny such flights until after the plane had landed.

The policed flight will start in London and stop at Paris’s Roissy airport before continuing to Kabul, the police source said. France and Britain agreed on such flights in July.

France is one of the main contributors of troops in Afghanistan after the United States, Britain and Germany, with a roughly 3,000-strong contingent.

“It’s absolutely staggering that the country of human rights, the host country, sends men and women who flee those we are fighting back into the lion’s jaws,” said Martine Aubry, leader of the opposition Socialist party, after a meeting with Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Last month, French police cleared an improvised camp dubbed “the jungle” near the port of Calais where illegal migrants gathered before trying to cross to Britain.

More than 10,000 people including Bertrand Delanoe, the socialist mayor of Paris, signed a petition by France Terre d‘Asile against forced deportations to Afghanistan.

“The security situation in that country has markedly worsened in recent years,” the petition reads. “Nothing can ensure people’s safety, not even the international coalition in Afghanistan.”

Reporting by Nicolas Bertin and Sophie Hardach in Paris and Tim Castle in London

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