Just when I thought the Government was showing some humanity, protecting refugee children across Europe, we have long called for, they have abandoned a whole new group of desperately vulnerable people.
I have met with young Asylum Seekers who were on the verge of their 18th birthday, they were terrified, terrified of being returned to warzones, terrified of being left alone with no family connections or accommodation. These are young people being sent to war torn countries, being forced to return to danger zones like Aleppo, Kabul, and Benghazi. It is a coming of age which no one would ask for.
When I pushed the Government on this “In the absence of adequate reception arrangements in the country of origin, our policy is not to return unaccompanied children who are refused asylum. Instead we grant leave until they reach adulthood.” Essentially they are deported as soon as they turn 18. They will have been in the UK for some years, part of our communities (In fact 2,018 such youngsters were returned to Afghanistan alone in the past nine years). Distressingly, I have heard stories of lads building a noose over their beds in case of being faced with forcible deportation.
It is essential that we know the extent of these deportations. I tabled a Written Question on 13 April asking for the number of 18 year-olds deported in each of the last 10 years. Five weeks later, I received a reply. And it was very different from that of last October when I was given a number for 2010 of 132. After another Question in March, that was corrected to 778. The initial figure given for 2014 was 151, which was later corrected to 445. Why the error and why the correction only after a further question from me?
To try to clarify this situation, and in the hope that the Government weren’t playing fast and loose with figures to hide their own failing, I tabled a Written Question asking for the number of deportations in each of the last 10 years. After six weeks the answer came “ Our records indicate that the total number of asylum seeking children who were removed from the United Kingdom after reaching the age of 18 from 2007 to 2015 is 6,797” This is a frightening statistic, and something we should be less than proud of, the Tories have again failed to show humanity.