Female Afghan judge wins legal battle to come to UK

Diane Taylor

The Guardian

Sun 23 Jul 2023 11.17 EDT

‘Overjoyed’ justice and son, who spent two years in hiding in Pakistan, reunited with family after landmark case

A female Afghan judge who was in hiding in Pakistan after fleeing the Taliban has won a landmark right to sanctuary in the UK.

The 53-year-old judge, whose true identity cannot be disclosed due to security concerns but is referred to as Yosra, was granted the right to come to the UK after a long legal battle with the Home Office.

She and her adult son crossed the border into Pakistan where they went into hiding after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021.

Earlier this year it was reported that hundreds of Afghans who had fled to Pakistan after the Taliban takeover had been forcibly returned.

Initially, the Home Office refused to grant Yosra and her son permission to come to the UK, although they had been told they were eligible under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy, and her lawyers lodged an appeal.

The Home Office has now accepted the pair to the Afghan citizens resettlement schemeThey recently arrived here and have been able to reunite with British relatives.This case could open the door for many other vulnerable Afghans in hiding in Pakistan who are eligible for one of the UK resettlement schemes but have so far not been granted permission to enter the country.

During her two-decade career as a judge in Afghanistan, Yosra held a number of senior positions, including one in the Afghan criminal court. She adjudicated cases involving the Taliban in crimes such as murder, kidnapping, violence against women, rape, terrorism offences and conspiring against the Afghan government.

Yosra welcomed the Home Office’s decision. “We are overjoyed to finally be with our family in the UK. The last almost two years have been the most gruelling time we’ve ever been through. Our initial hope to be granted a visa to come to the UK over time turned into hopelessness and despair,” she said.

“In Pakistan, the ongoing fear for our life and the restrictions we faced as a result placed an enormous burden on us mentally and emotionally. We only left the small apartment our family in the UK rented for us to go and buy groceries or see the doctor.

“Two days before we flew to the UK, our apartment block got raided by police to arrest Afghan refugees. Luckily, we were out at the doctor’s at the time. Now that we are finally safe in the UK, we so much enjoy being able to walk around safely and freely now, sitting in our family’s garden and feeling just peace around us, and sleeping quietly and comfortably, knowing next day we will wake up in our safe new home.”

Lawyers Lucy Blake from Jenner & Block and Oliver Oldman from Kingsley Napley acted for the judge and her son pro bono.

Oldman said: “We are so relieved for the judge and her son. While long overdue, this is absolutely the right result. She, her son and their family in the UK have been living with the constant threat of deportation to Afghanistan hanging over their heads for almost two years, which has really taken its toll. We are thrilled to see them reunited at last, but remain concerned about the other vulnerable Afghans, including judges, who remain in hiding.”

A government spokesperson said: “Whilst we don’t comment on individual cases, we remain committed to providing protection for vulnerable and at-risk people fleeing Afghanistan – including female judges – and so far have brought around 24,500 people to the UK. We continue to work with like-minded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan on resettlement issues, and to support safe passage for eligible people.”

Female Afghan judge wins legal battle to come to UK