Move to deport child asylum seekers to Kabul under fire


Medical Foundation expresses fear over the plan




10th June 2010: The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has expressed fears over the UK government’s plan to return unaccompanied boys to Afghanistan.

Just over two days after the UK Border Agency made clear its plans of deporting unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Kabul from Britain, it has also raised safety and other questions over the move.

It has also asked the UK Border Agency to exercise extreme caution, while going ahead with its move.

The foundation’s client base includes survivors of torture and organised violence.

“What provisions are in place to establish on a case-by-case basis that Afghanistan is a safe environment for these boys to be returned to, when the personal circumstances of many young, unaccompanied Afghans in the UK may be extremely complex?” asks Juliet Cohen, Head of Doctors at the MF.

“We’ve seen a number of clients whose fathers have been killed; we’re concerned that if these boys were returned to Afghanistan they may be subject to blood feud and family honour obligations and expected to take revenge for their fathers’ deaths or face pressure from militants to take up arms – positions that would place them in great danger”, adds Cohen.

The foundation has asserted a rising number of Afghan children are seen coming to the country after suffering extreme trauma subsequent to dreadful experiences such as torture and repeated rape. Some of them have also been witnessing their family being killed.

The foundation has further asserted some of their clients had fled the country to escape the force from their families and communities to fight or train as suicide bombers.

Another young MF client reported that his father, who is still alive, would kill him on return for running away after he tried to force him to become a fighter for the Taliban.
They are terrified of being returned, after undertaking long and often treacherous journeys to the UK.

The foundation says so far scarce and inadequate details have been handed over by the UK government on whether adequate measures would be taken to care for vulnerable groups returned, including specialist services to treat survivors of torture.

It adds: Managing the psychiatric and physical consequences of these individuals’ ordeals is a very long process lasting years and involving a variety of therapies, set in the context of a safe haven, well away from where they initially suffered.

 “Indeed rehabilitation can sometimes only begin when the individual is sufficiently secure in the knowledge that they won’t be returned; being sent back to Afghanistan could add deep additional trauma and cause long-term regression of these boys wellbeing” says Cohen.

The concept of “reintegration” back into Afghan society is itself complex. The unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the UK come from diverse economic, social and cultural backgrounds; many of their families have been caught up in the ongoing violence and dispersed or been killed. Sending the boys to Kabul for a limited period of planned support could then leave them vulnerable to recruitment by militants.

As a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK has an obligation to ‘take all appropriate measure to promote physical and psychological recovery….in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child’.

Unless it can be established that return to Afghanistan is clearly in each child’s best interests and respects their human rights, the UKBA should take extreme caution in pressing ahead with such a plan and think about investing further in UK services to support them.

If the proposal is to be implemented, the government must ensure returns are based on thorough medical assessment, the provision of adequate, long-term services and an assurance that any individual who suffers additional trauma be returned to the UK with indefinite leave to remain, the foundation adds.


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