Facing the Abyss

Facing the Abyss


Written by: Nicky Road

A recent conference presented the challenges facing separated children seeking asylum as they turn 18.

The  conference, organised by the Royal Holloway and the Tavistock and Portman NHS on 19 September, brought together lawyers, teachers, mental health workers, social workers, refugee organisations and young asylum seekers to share their knowledge and experiences and to establish a network to collate information and track the outcomes for separated young people seeking asylum.

The excellent contributors detailed both the legal minefield of seeking justice for these young people and the emotional and psychological impact of displacement and a very uncertain and potentially life-threatening future. Young people from Afghanistan also participated in the day and spoke about their experiences of living in the UK, gaining education and qualifications, making friends and a life here only to be met with a very uncertain future as they reach 18.

There were speakers, films taken by young people speaking about their lives, a performance of Mazloom, a play based on words and experiences of young asylum seekers, and a film called Hamedullah. This is the true story of Hamedullah who fled Afghanistan as a teenager and lived safely in Canterbury until Border Agency officials came to his house in the middle of the night, arrested him and removed him to Kabul on a charter flight. Sue Clayton, a film director working in the Media Department at the Royal Holloway, filmed the day he was led to his flight and gave him a tiny video camera which he has since used to capture his experience of returning and his daily struggle to survive. This film is a very powerful testament to the dangers that these young people face when they are forcibly removed and gives the lie to the official statement that it is safe for these young men to return.

The greatest sense of injustice voiced by those young people present was the inequality in the way they are treated in the UK. The different standards of the legal representation they receive was also voiced by many, lawyers included. Supporters of these young people have started to show extracts of Hamedullah to judges, highlighting what they can expect on their return, and this is proving an increasingly effective way of influencing the decisions taken by courts.

The film Hamedullah costs £10 with all the proceeds going to this young man to support him whilst he tries to make a new life for himself. He has been unable to get work, has no family left and his village is in one of the most dangerous areas. He is viewed with great suspicion as belonging to neither country.

Related links

For more information: Young People Seeking Safety

For more information about the Network contact Anna Gupta (Department of Social Work, Royal Holloway): Anna.gupta@rhul.ac.uk and for copies of Hamedullah contact: Eastwest Productions on 0208 800 7450 or email: claytonworks@gmail.com.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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