To set up a £4m "reintegration centre" in Afghanistan
8th June 2010: Even as the charities have called for more compassionate immigration policy, the UK Border Agency made clear its plans of deporting unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Kabul from Britain with the move to set up a £4m "reintegration centre" in Afghanistan
Indications from the terms of the center’s official tender are that the immigration authorities in the initial period will per month compel as many as 12 boys to return to Afghanistan. Besides sending these under 18 boys back to Kabul, "reintegration assistance" will also be provided to 120 adults a month.
In fact, the terms of the contract clearly say 12 young Afghan males aged 16 and 17 are to be sent back a month. The children will be accommodated until they are 18 under adult supervisory care.
As per the plan, support will also be provided to countries of origin creating reception centres that can provide care for minors when the family cannot be found.
The development is significant as Home Office figures show more than 4,200 unaccompanied child asylum seekers are living in Britain. A majority of them are supported in local authority social services homes.
Unaccompanied child asylum seekers from Afghanistan form the largest group. Almost 50 per cent of 400 minors seeking asylum in the first three months of this year were Afghans.
The move to set up the center for deporting Afghan child asylum seekers in Britain is being seen as a major shift in the existing policy. Till now, they could be returned only if there was an undertaking that adequate reception and care arrangements would be provided to them.
Incidentally, British is not the only country planning to return unaccompanied migrant children to Afghanistan. Norway has already made public its plans to open a reception centre in Kabul, while Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are reportedly preparing to return Afghan children to Kabul.
The new move on unaccompanied minors has already received the backing of the Home Office ministers during the meeting of the justice and home affairs ministers in Luxembourg.
Reacting to the developments, Simone Troller of Human Rights Watch has asserted EU governments need to make sure it is in the children’s best interests, before deporting vulnerable kids to places like Afghanistan.
The Refugee Council called for urgent review of the plans to remove unaccompanied minors to unsafe countries. Chief executive Donna Covey asserted little has been said about how these children would be kept safe. If they have no family to whom they can be returned safely, should they be returned at all? Covey questioned.
Immigration minister Damian Green, on the other hand, said no one should encourage children to undertake dangerous journeys across the world. As such, they were looking to work with other European countries, such as Norway, and valued international partners, such as Unicef, as well as the Afghan government, to find ways to help these young men and women in their home countries and to return those who were in the UK safely to their home nations with appropriate support once they arrive.