Thirteen years ago I celebrated my 18th birthday. I didn't celebrate it in May as I was preparing for my A-levels. I had saved some money so in the summer I went to Crete with some friends from school. Each night we went out to the bars and clubs. Each day we recovered by the swimming pool. It was a typical summer break for someone who had just left high school in 1998.
Maybe that's why I am particularly affected by what's happening at my workplace.
A number of my students will be turning 18 this year.
I think it will be an enjoyable milestone for the Pole and the Latvian and their families.
The three Afghan boys are in a very different place.
Although they are supported by Social Services they are essentially alone here in the UK.
As these Afghans turn seventeen and a half they are prepared for "leaving care".
The Government plans to return 400 young Afghans to Kabul this year.
Deportations have begun because the Government deems
to be safe, despite the two suicide bombs which have killed 17 people since the beginning of this year. Kabul
The government is opening a reception centre for returnees where, supposedly, they will be given support. I believe this was put out to tender for a three year contract in March 2010. The centre will house 76 returnees (link). This does not fill me with confidence.
It is well documented that the most extreme of the Taliban linked insurgency groups is stepping up its activity in
Spate of Kabul Suicide Bombs Blamed on Nearby Valley, The National,
17 February 2011
EXCERPT: "Two suicide bomb attacks in as many months on shoppers in
, after a seven-month lull in serious violence in the city, have raised fears that insurgents are bolstering their strongholds on the outskirts of the capital.” Kabul
My students could be included in the 400 returned to Kabul this year. What can I do to stop this? What guidance and support is available? I'm not sure the college guidance and welfare team are experienced in supporting students in deportation cases.
I have decided to discuss my thoughts with my students and try and support them in setting up a support network for themselves and others who may be in similar positions. Giving this group a voice through media, the internet and direct actions may help.
Writing about it may help.
At a time of cuts in all sectors of society I doubt the plight of a few Afghan boys is of much concern to the general public.
A quick Google search, however, has produced this campaign -
http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/news/2011/launch-awareness-raising-campaign-unaccompanied-asylum-seeking-children-uk - Young People Seeking Safety Week
Between 28 March - 3 April 2011, groups will be hosting events during a week of nation-wide awareness raising about this issue, YPSS Week 2011 will be showing films and art of young people made for the occasion. For more information visit the campaign website http://www.youngpeopleseekingsafety.co.uk.I believe that these young people have suffered enough and that returning them to Afghanistan will endanger their lives.
I hope that supporting my students to find their voices will prevent what seems to be a dark and fearful destiny.
In Leeds, systems have been developed to quickly engage new arrivals, aged 16-18 and get them enrolled in ESOL classes. A strong partnership, between Leeds Social Services and Leeds City College, has ensured that new arrivals are fast tracked into college. The systems were developed in response to a large number of migrant children missing enrolment due to their arrival date being after the start of an academic year. They then fell into the NEET category (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Good community links and a reputation for accommodating young people has created a dynamic solution to their needs. Please contact me if you would like to know more about my work.
Thanks for reading.