The asylum seekers arrived in Britain as lone children and were given temporary leave to remain, but sent back to Afghanistan and Iraq after their 18th birthdays
Image: Getty Images)
Britain has sent more than 100 asylum seekers back to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last five years after taking them in as unaccompanied children.
All were given temporary leave to remain in the UK but were returned to their country of origin after turning 18.
The data was obtained by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and relates to removals over the last five years.
A report by the charity Refugee Support Network – now rebranded as Refugee Education UK – suggests some of those returning face perilous situations.
Its researchers interviewed a range of Afghan returnees for its After Return report, some of whom said they’d been caught in bombs or suicide attacks.
Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
One, named only as Mohammed, told the charity in 2016 that he’d been forced to join the Taliban for his own protection.
He claimed he was “tortured” before leaving for the UK as a child and needed protection from his “enemies”.
Then 21, he said: “I thought a lot about my decision, but I did not see any other way. I had to join the Taliban to be able to defend myself from my enemies and survive.”
Others reported struggling with mental health issues, and accessing work and education.
Under current laws, unaccompanied children arriving in the UK are expected to make asylum claims in the same way as adults – outlining exactly why returning to their home country would present a risk for them.
Those rejected are granted leave to remain in the UK until six months before their 18th birthday.
Once this expires, children have the right to apply for an extension, but experts say very few of these applications are successful.
Ben Davison, head of immigration at Ison Harrison Solicitors, said: “If their appeal is unsuccessful, that’s the point where the Home Office can take removal action.
“Appeals are more likely to be unsuccessful because if it’s going to be recognised that they will be at risk, it’s usually recognised first time around.
“They can argue that they have established a private life in the UK, but there are specific rules.
“Children generally need to have been in the UK for seven years to show it would be unduly harsh to remove them and those who have been here for a shorter period don’t meet that set criteria.”
Many are left in limbo as they wait for their claims to be processed – often housed in poorly maintained asylum accommodation.
Mr Davison says that, even in light of the Taliban takeover, there is no guarantee those who arrived as unaccompanied children will be allowed to stay.
He added: “It’s not enough to simply say, ‘Afghanistan has been taken over’. It will be upon the applicant – child or adult – to make a case for why they particularly are at risk.”
Our data relates to at least 138 asylum seekers removed from the UK between 2016 and 2021.
It comes amid a spike in desperate asylum seekers paying traffickers to get them to the UK due to the lack of safe routes.
Last month, 27 people drowned in the Channel while trying to reach Britain on a dinghy.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Those with no right to be in the UK and foreign national offenders should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them.
“This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.”
A foreign national offender is anyone remanded or convicted on criminal charges who does not have an absolute legal right to remain in this country.
But when asked by the Mirror, the Home Office was unable to say how many, if any, of the 138 people in question had been convicted of crimes.
The spokesman added: “In light of the developing situation, we suspended returns to Afghanistan in July and we do not carry out enforced returns to Syria for the same reason.
“We keep returns under review and make assessments based on the latest country information.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.