Tawab, the last of our four refugee lads, had his asylum hearing yesterday. To avoid keeping you in suspense I shall say straight out that it was recommended he be granted full asylum, but our celebrations were all the greater because this was anyting but a foregone conclusion. The was in Wiener Neustadt, which has a reputation as a hotbed of anti-refugee bureaucrats who turn down 99% of asylum applications by Afghans, regardless of the validity of their claim (as a point of comparison, Traiskirchen grants subisdiary protection in just over 50% of cases). This is not a mere paranoid rumour, I was informed of this by our lawyer, who has recently brought charges against one of said bureaucrats for failing to follow the law in making his decision. He had warned us that, depending on who was presiding over the hearing, we might well get a negative decision, no matter how good our case, but we geared our loins anyway and all the preparation paid off. I couldn't face sitting through yet another hearing, especially one where the case worker was likely to be hostile or abusive, so Wolfgang went instead (with the lawyer in tow), and came back spitting blood about the unfairness of the procedure, but full of admiration for how well Tawab had told his story. In effect, he converted a hostile case worker into a fully sympathetic one, who told him at the end that he was the first Afghan he had ever granted asylum to, while the interpreter was so impressed by Tawab's poems about Afghanistan and the need for peace and equality that she asked for his Facebook name so she could read more of them.
I am fully aware that Tawab is absolutely exceptional, not only as a human being, but also in having a certain amount of evidence to back up his story (he was able to get photos from a relative in Germany that proved that he and his father had indeed been interviewed by Afghan TV, and that both of them were published poets and that his father is a moderately famous one in a country very short of artists of any kind). It was the poem he read on this TV programme and his criticism of the Taliban that led to the family having to leave Afghanistan overnight because of death threats the day it was broadcast - Wolfgang said the case worker had initially been sneery and clearly convinced it was all a lie and by the end was reading the poems with deep interest. Most Afghans who have their hearing in Wiener Neustadt don't have people like us to help them prepare, and even with our help, had it been any other of our boys, they would have had their claim rejected. So our joy that Tawab can stay is set against a background of despair at the evil of a system that allows bureaucrats to make entirely subjective judgments on matters of life and death (asylum seekers can appeal against the decision, and a number of negative decisions are subsequently overturned, but it means they unnecessarily waste a year or more of their lives in a constant state of anxiety and with no access to the labour market).
Anyway, today I was contacted by a home for refugees who had heard about Tawab's outcome and asked if I could advise them on how to prepare their residents with upcoming interviews in Wiener Neustadt and Traiskirchen. We're meeting this afternoon and I really hope the knowledge we've gained from preparing our boys can now help other people as well.
Akbar and Elkhom still haven't heard what their outcome is, but I'm expecting Elkhom's application to be turned down, in which case he should get the letter any day now. Akbar's outcome is also likely to be negative but I have no idea when we'll hear - the longer it takes, the more hopeful the sign.