Home Office plans to deport unaccompanied child asylum seekers from the UK via a £4m reintegration centre in Afghanistan have outraged human rights campaigners.
The plans, set out in an official tender document by the UK Border Agency, would see as many as 12 Afghan children deported from the UK to Kabul every month. They would be held in a reintegration centre, at a cost said to be around £4m.
Campaigners have said the centre will put the safety and welfare of children at risk. The move, which follows the government’s pledge to end child detention, appears to represent a different direction for immigration policy.
Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice, said the charity was very concerned by the government’s decision to “forcibly deport children back to this war-torn country”. She said she hoped the government would reconsider.
“We work with many children who have fled Afghanistan in fear to seek protection in the UK. They have often endured long, arduous and dangerous journeys to get here, and forcibly removing them to Kabul is likely to put their safety and welfare further at risk.
“This reception centre would apparently cost £4m – a huge price in an already wasteful and inefficient asylum system. That money would be better spent providing the right support for asylum seeking children in this country,” Slocock said.
She added that the £4m “would be better spent” resolving problems that could arise if Refugee and Migrant Justice, which provides legal advice to about 900 unaccompanied child asylum seekers, is forced to close.
The charity is facing possible closure due to changes made to the legal aid system by the former government which means payment is only received when cases are completed.