An article in the Observer magazine last week documented the horrifying stories of young asylum seekers who have fled Afghanistan and travelled, mainly by foot, to Europe to find a place of safety. While the interviews are with young people in France, the story is about children all over Europe and their experiences reflect those of young people who have made it to the UK and visit the Refugee Council’s Children’s Section for practical and emotional support. This year our Children’s Section turns 18, so we will be celebrating 18 years of working with refugee children throughout 2012. (watch this space for details).
The story in the Observer also referred to the plans being made by the new European Returns Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM), of which the UK government is a partner. We at the Refugee Council are extremely concerned about it. See our response to this news when it was announced in November.
The Observer talked at length to our Policy officer, Judith Dennis, in writing the article. Judith points out that the policy disregards the reasons these young people have fled their own countries:
“Governments concerned about deterring minors from embarking on hazardous journeys risk missing the point about why children flee in the first place We share concerns that children’s journeys to safety are often dangerous, but it is inappropriate to suggest that the international response should be to discourage them from escaping the threats in their country.”