How many countries do you think there are between England and Afghanistan? Well, it all depends. As the drone flies, there’s Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France. If you prefer the scenic route, there’s Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Germany, the Netherlands. Not in any particular hurry? Then you could always try diverting through Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Macedonia, Albania, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. I’m told Prague is very pretty at this time of year. Certainly, if you were making your way the 3,500 miles to Britain by road, you’d have to pass through at least half a dozen sovereign countries before you reached the English Channel. We know that Zareen Ahmadzai travelled here by lorry from Afghanistan in 2010. So he must have crossed some of those countries.
Under international law, anyone seeking asylum is supposed to apply in the first ‘safe’ country they arrive in. Yet Ahmadzai failed to lodge any application until he was discovered holed up at an address in Wolverhampton.
It was only after he was arrested as an illegal immigrant that he appealed to a tribunal on the grounds that his life would be in danger if he was returned to Afghanistan. Back home, Ahmadzai was a Taliban fighter, like his father, a commander who was shot dead during a battle against U.S. troops in Helmand Province. He admits firing Kalashnikov rifles and rockets and killing people. But he fled the country and now claims he would face death or torture at the hands of both the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces. Which is why he legged it to Wolverhampton.
We are not told why he chose Wolverhampton, in particular. He doesn’t even speak English. As an Afghan Muslim, surely he would have felt more at home in neighbouring Pakistan, or Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. Perhaps he felt these countries were a little too close for comfort. But nor are we told why Ahmadzai did not apply for asylum in, say, France or Turkey, as he was required to do under the international convention long before he arrived in the Black Country. I think we can accurately assume the answer is that he knew of Britain’s reputation as one of the world’s most benevolent safe havens for terrorists. Perhaps word had reached him of the way in which Al Qaeda leaders, African torturers and assorted genocidal maniacs are indulged by the British courts.
He headed here because he knew he would receive a sympathetic hearing and the chances of him ever being deported were close to zero.