Three refugee women claim in court they are ‘too westernised’ to be sent back

Accommodation for refugees at Ter Apel in Drenthe.Photo: Justice ministry

Three refugee women from Afghanistan and Somalia will appear before the highest Dutch administrative court on Thursday, arguing they are too westernised to be sent back to their countries of origin.

They claim that being sent back would put their lives in danger because they no longer comply with the standards of female behaviour considered acceptable there.

One woman, a 21-year-old Afghan woman who has been in the Netherlands for seven years, told broadcaster NOS she has made her life in the Netherlands. ‘Here I can chose what I wear, what I do and who I am,’ Mohadese Moradi said. ‘I cannot do that in Afghanistan.’

‘This is an important case, European asylum law professor Hemme Battjes told the broadcaster. ‘If you want to be considered for refugee status, you have to show that you have justifiable fears because of something about you that you cannot or don’t want to change.’

This argument is sometimes used to grant refugee status to gay men, who would be in considerable personal danger if sent back home.

The justice ministry says that being too westernised is no grounds for asylum: ‘Limits to opportunities or self development are not sufficient grounds for refugee status.’

The Council of State usually takes six weeks to give its ruling but can also refer the case on to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.