We chose ‘Uncertain Journeys’ as the title of our series of seminars and workshops relating to unaccompanied child migrants because it encompasses the uncertainty of the physical journey to the UK (see today’s Guardian report on Calais) the journey towards adulthood, and the implications of adulthood on migrant status. For unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, the threat of deportation once they are adults is ever present. If their asylum claim is refused, then they could be detained and deported at any time after the age of 18. The threat of being uprooted from family and friends, education and employment and an environment which they have adapted to in the UK, often over many years, has wide-ranging consequences on health and well-being. There is also the worry of the unknown, being deported to a country that they fled from.
Deportation to Afghanistan was halted in summer 2015, but the Court of Appeal lifted this ban in March 2016. As the UK Government considers much of Afghanistan to be safe for deportees, deportations can resume. However, the security situation continues to be precarious and because there is no systematic tracking of returnees, there is no acknowledgement of the impact of return.
Refugee Support Network (RSN) has sought to address some of these concerns through a recently-published report ‘After Return: Documenting the Experiences of Young People Forcibly Removed to Afghanistan’. The RSN team in London and Kabul, along with collaborating organisations and the young people involved in the project, should be congratulated on collecting data from 25 returnees and presenting the impact of return on health, education, employment and safety. This research is a vital step in developing understanding of the dimensions of forced return, but also informing policy-makers as to the potential impacts of deportations.