British plans to expel Afghan child refugees under attack
M & C
Jun 8, 2010, 15:59 GMT
London – Britain is working with other European countries to facilitate the return of unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Afghanistan under plans criticized by human rights and child welfare groups, it was reported Tuesday.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said Britain was working with other European countries, as well as United Nations agencies and the Afghan government, to help young people once they have been returned to their home countries.
'No one should be encouraging children to make dangerous journeys across the world,' he said.
The new Conservative-Liberal government pledged to end the controversial practice of holding minors in asylum detention centres when it came to power last month.
The Guardian newspaper reported that, as part of the plans, the UK Border Agency would set up a 'reintegration centre' in Kabul at a cost of 4 million pounds (5.7 million dollars).
Refugee welfare and human rights groups Tuesday condemned the plans as risky, unsafe and a waste of money.
'We are very concerned by the decision to forcibly deport children back to this war-torn country, and we hope the new government will reconsider,' said Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice.
She suggested that the money could be better spent providing sufficient support for asylum-seeking children while in Britain.
According to British government figures, there are currently about 4,200 unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Britain, supported by local authorities.
Of the 400 minors claiming asylum in Britain in the first three months of this year, almost half were from Afghanistan.
Until now, Britain has had a policy of not returning children under 18 to Afghanistan unless they are accompanied by their families.
Under the future plans, an initial 12 boys a month under the age of 18 would be returned to Afghanistan, where they would be given help with education, training, finding homes and setting up businesses, the Guardian said. Unaccompanied children would also receive help in finding their families.
The Guardian said the reintegration centre would provide the children with a 'supervised home' until they were 18 and provide short-term accommodation for up to 120 deported adults each month.
Britain's Refugee Council said there were 'serious questions' about whether the plans would work and whether the children would be safe.
According to the Guardian, Norway,Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have similar plans to return Afghan children home.
It said Britain had backed a new European Union action plan which would provide support for countries of origin 'creating reception centres that can provide care for minors when the family cannot be found.'