Academics, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Danish Refugee Council participated in a workshop to discuss the European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM), which focuses on the return of unaccompanied children to Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, Iraq.

The scholars raised concerns regarding the project’s compatibility with the principles of the best interest of the child, the difficulties that exist in successfully tracing families in Afghanistan, the lack of a child protection system in Afghanistan, and the question of what might happen to children who are returned to temporary reception facilities in Kabul, whose families have fled the country, have been killed, are unable to care for the child, or do not want to receive the child.

Four countries participate in the project, Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands and Norway, as well as two ‘observer states’, Denmark and Belgium. Despite the extension of the project, which was initiated in 2010 under the European Return Fund, until June 2014, so far, no child has been returned under the programme. In the second grant application from late 2012 (ERPUM II), the stated aim is to expand the project to a third, as of yet unspecified country of origin.

According to Martin Lemberg-Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen, while the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is not envisioned to be part of the return process under ERPUM, the organisation would offer “post-return support” to the deported children, and assist the Afghan authorities in constructing the reception facilities. Lemberg-Pedersen pointed out that family tracing is to be undertaken by the Identity Checking Unit (IDCU), a project initiated by IOM and currently funded by the two observer states of ERPUM: Denmark and Belgium.

The workshop report published this week compiles the presentations and discussions that took place on 3 May at the Oxford University Refugee Studies Centre.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 June 2013
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