Student - September 29, 2011

Student film draws attention to Afghan refugees

Two International Development Studies students are drawing attention to the plight of a specific group of Afghan refugees. They did this on Monday evening in the Movie W arthouse cinema with their documentary 'Stamped', followed by a debate.

Liza Iessa and fellow student Mette Kienhorst
Liza Iessa and fellow student Mette Kienhorst

photo: .

This film project started because of the father of Liza Iessa, one of the two filmmakers. He worked for the Afghan security service Khad/Wad and therefore is automatically seen as a war criminal and - like 700 other Afghan refugees - has been refused residence in the Netherlands. The burden of proof for the war crimes lies with the refugees. At least 350 of these people are living in the Netherlands. This group is in a Catch-22: they are not allowed to live in the Netherlands but they can't be deported because of their safety.
Liza Iessa and Mette Kienhorst, both International Development Studies students, interviewed Mr Iessa, an immigration lawyer and Otto Hospes, an expert in the field of international law at the University. The government was not represented. Liza: 'They were not available for comment at such short notice; we made the documentary in one month. We wanted to do something else rather than just demonstrate. So we chose a different approach: drawing attention to the issue, explaining, showing.'

What now? 'There will be more screenings followed by debate to draw attention to this problem. The ultimate goal is to get it on the agenda of Parliament. We will carry on depending on how much this subject resonates with people.' There doesn't seem to be much problem there: a woman in the audience had to wipe away a tear on seeing Mr Iessa's uncertain situation.

Official country report
An official country report by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2000 decided that Afghans working in military intelligence during the Russian occupation with the rank of non-commissioned officer or higher should be automatically suspected of war crimes. They are not eligible for asylum.
However it is not certain that they actually committed such crimes in all cases. Often there is no longer any evidence. But it is a question of 'reasonable suspicion' that someone was involved in crimes rather than criminal evidence. The Council of State has ruled in favour of the government's position.

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