8 April 2016

A new report by Refugee Support Network documents the experiences of 25 young people who were forced to return to Kabul after spending their formative years in the UK. When returning to Afghanistan, they faced various issues such as insecurity, mental health difficulties, lack of or weak personal networks and struggled to continue their education or find sustainable work.

In the UK, most unaccompanied asylum seeking children are granted temporary leave to remain in the country until they reach 18 years of age. After turning 18, many apply unsuccessfully to remain. There is no official monitoring of their wellbeing after being forcibly removed to their country of origin. According to the report, 2,748 young people have been forced to return since 2007, of which 2,018 are from Afghanistan.

“We have been shocked by the findings of our own research, and deeply saddened that the lives of boys we knew and supported here in the UK have been reduced to a daily battle for survival in Afghanistan,” said Emily Bowerman, co-author of the report, to the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. “We are particularly concerned by the enhanced and exacerbated suffering and risks they face precisely because they have been returned from the UK.”

“A boy who was deported from the UK was killed in our area,” explains one of the former unaccompanied children in the report. “He had newly arrived from UK and was living peacefully with his family until people found out about him, though he did not have any enemy at that time.”

The report suggests that is not in the individual best interests of the young people to leave the safety, security and support they have experienced in the UK and the networks they have established.

The Refugee Support Network emphasises that former unaccompanied children should be recognised as a special group with particular needs and deserving of tailored support, as many young people become even more vulnerable at 18 as a result of the large number of changes and uncertainty they face. 

 “We hope that the findings of After Return will lead to a more informed and compassionate approach to forced removals from the UK, and that former unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Afghanistan will begin to be treated in the same way as other vulnerable care leavers,” Bowerman concluded.

Afghans, the second largest group of asylum seekers, have been facing increasing difficulties in obtaining protection in Europe. The latest statistics from Eurostat show significant discrepancies between EU Member States in granting protection to Afghans, with the UK giving one of the lowest rates of protection.


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 8 April 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.