From Europe to Afghanistan: Experiences of child returnees

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Save the Children International,Save the Children Sweden

This report assesses the impact on children of being returned from Europe to Afghanistan. Through interviews with individual children, their parents or guardians, and with governmental and non-governmental actors, it builds a picture of children’s material, physical, legal and psychosocial safety during the returns process. Returns processes implemented by EU member states and Norway are examined to analyse where European governments are failing to provide appropriate support.

The results are disturbing: nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed did not feel safe during the returns process. Over half reported instances of violence and coercion and nearly half arrived in Afghanistan alone or were escorted by police. On arrival, the children received little or no support, and only three had a specific reintegration plan. While 45 children had attended school in Europe, only 16 were attending school in Afghanistan. Ten children said attempts had been made to recruit them to commit violent acts, while many others spoke of discrimination, insecurity and sadness. Of the 53 children who completed questionnaires, only ten neither wish nor expect to re-migrate in the next year. Clearly, the processes and support necessary to ensure sustainable returns for children are not in place.

Evidence collected through this research also forms the basis of specific recommendations to European governments that are currently returning children and young people to an unsafe environment and unsustainable futures. It urges the EU and Norwegian governments to halt the return of children to Afghanistan until the security situation has improved and all the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that children’s rights, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are respected.

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