GB : vers l’expulsion de mineurs Afghans ?
Le gouvernement britannique envisage d’expulser vers l’Afghanistan des mineurs, demandeurs d’asile déboutés, qui seraient hébergés dans un centre à Kaboul jusqu’à leur majorité, rapporte aujourd’hui le quotidien britannique The Guardian.
Le journal de centre-gauche indique que l’agence britannique aux frontières a lancé un appel d’offre pour l’établissement d’un "centre de réinsertion" à Kaboul d’un coût de 4 millions de livres (4,8 millions d’euros) pour y placer chaque mois une douzaine de mineurs expulsés.
Le centre offrira un hébergement à quelque 120 jeunes hommes jusqu’à leur 18e anniversaire, ainsi qu’une formation et des bourses pour fonder des entreprises, d’après le journal. Le ministère de l’Intérieur, joint par l’AFP, n’a pas confirmé ni démenti ces informations.
Le ministre de l’Immigration Damian Green a souligné que "personne ne devait encourager les enfants à entreprendre des voyages dangereux à travers le monde", selon un communiqué transmis par le ministère de l’Intérieur.
UK to deport child asylum seekers to Afghanistan
Alan Travis, home affairs editor guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 June 2010 21.11 BST
There are more than 4,200 unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Britain, with most being supported in local authority social services homes. Photograph : Sean Dempsey/PA
The UK Border Agency is to set up a £4m "reintegration centre" in Afghanistan so that it can start deporting unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Kabul from Britain, the Guardian can disclose.
The terms of the official tender for the centre show that immigration officials initially hope to forcibly return 12 boys a month aged under 18 to Afghanistan and provide "reintegration assistance" for 120 adults a month.
Home Office figures show there are more than 4,200 unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Britain, with most being supported in local authority social services homes. Those from Afghanistan are the largest group. Of the 400 minors claiming asylum in the first three months of this year, almost half were Afghans.
A decision to start deporting Afghan child asylum seekers who arrive in Britain alone would amount to a major shift in policy. Up until now, child protection issues and an undertaking that failed child asylum seekers would be returned only if adequate reception and care arrangements were in place for them on arrival have blocked returns.
The British plans form part of a wider European move to plan the return of unaccompanied migrant children to Afghanistan. Norway has also announced plans to open a reception centre in Kabul. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are also reported to be preparing to return Afghan children to Kabul. Home Office ministers backed a new EU action plan on unaccompanied minors last Thursday when justice and home affairs ministers met in Luxembourg. The plan included support for countries of origin "creating reception centres that can provide care for minors when the family cannot be found".
The development has sounded the alarm among refugee welfare and human rights organisations that the EU has given a green light to move ahead with deportations with too little being done to guarantee the safety of the children sent back.
Simone Troller of Human Rights Watch said : "Before deporting vulnerable kids to places like Afghanistan, EU governments need to make sure it is in the children’s best interests." She said that the British government had circulated a policy paper on unaccompanied minors in February during a Brussels workshop that called for an "EU-wide presumption" that a child’s best interest was to return. It also argued against formal safeguards such as guardianship as "immensely expensive to put in place".
The details of the UK Border Agency tender document issued in March say the £4m contract is intended to "provide reintegration assistance for Afghans whose return home is being enforced by the UK government because they have no right to remain in the UK". The terms of the contract say that 12 young Afghan males aged 16 and 17 are to be sent back a month. They will be accommodated until they are 18, with adults providing supervisory care. The numbers imply that up to 150 teenagers would be sent back in the first year.
The centre will also provide reintegration assistance, including vocational training, business start-up grants and short-term accommodation for 120 deported adults each month.
A decision to start sending back 16- and 17-year-old asylum seekers to Afghanistan would also render academic many "age disputed" cases in which the UKBA claims adults are posing as children to avoid removal.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, said tonight : "No one should be encouraging children to make dangerous journeys across the world. Therefore we are looking to work with other European countries, such as Norway, and valued international partners, such as Unicef, as well as the Afghan government, to find ways to help these young men and women in their home countries and to return those who are in the UK safely to their home nations with appropriate support once they arrive."
The Refugee Council said ministers should urgently review the plans to start removing unaccompanied minors to countries that are not safe. Its chief executive, Donna Covey, said : "There has been little said about how these children would be kept safe … if they have no family to whom they can be returned safely, should they be returned at all ? There are serious questions to be raised about the quality of decision-making on the cases of unaccompanied children. The money would be better spent improving the way that children’s claims are assessed, so that we can be sure we never put them in danger."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
EU : Defer Hasty Returns of Migrant Children
Better Safeguards Needed for Children who Arrive in Europe Alone (Brussels) -
The European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions on unaccompanied migrant children focus too much on how to send them back to their countries of origin and too little on how to guarantee their safety, Human Rights Watch said today. The conclusions were adopted on June 3, 2010.
"Returning migrant children to their country of origin just won’t work for every child," said Simone Troller, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Before deporting vulnerable kids to places like Afghanistan, EU governments need to make sure it is in the children’s best interests." The conclusions by the Justice and Home Affairs Council contain important positive points, Human Rights Watch said. Those include recognition of the rights of these unaccompanied children and the need to protect them, the need to address gaps in legislation and practice, and the importance of identifying solutions to meet the child’s long-term needs based on an assessment of each child’s situation and needs.
However, the conclusions unduly emphasize returning these children to their country of origin over other options, Human Rights Watch said. And they omit the need to ensure critical safeguards such as access to guardians and lawyers for unaccompanied children in the EU, which put children at risk of being sent back in violation of international obligations. A growing number of EU members and other European countries are actively planning the return of unaccompanied migrant children to countries of origin, in particular to Afghanistan.
The UK Border Agency published a £4 million tender in late March to operate a reception center in Afghanistan, and to provide reintegration assistance for approximately 12 boys, ages 16 and 17, and 120 adults a month, following their deportation from the UK. Norway, which is not a EU member, has announced a plan to build a care center in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in reaction to an increasing number of unaccompanied Afghan children arriving in Norway. Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands also plan to return Afghan children to a reception center, according to press reports.
In February, the UK government circulated a policy paper on unaccompanied minors during a Brussels workshop that calls for an "EU-wide presumption" that a child’s best interest is to return. It also argues against formal safeguards like guardianship as "immensely expensive to put in place."
"Recent government statements confirm our fears that EU member states are willing to override safety concerns and children’s interests in order to rid themselves of responsibilities generated by migrant children in Europe," Troller said.
Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the government of Norway on February 9 asking what procedural guarantees are in place to ensure that a child’s return is in his or her best interests, and how the child is able to bring a legal challenge against such return decisions.
The letter also asked how a reception facility in Afghanistan would be coordinated with the country’s existing services for children. The letter expressed concern that it would create problems by providing services to children returned, but not necessarily to other children in need. The same concerns apply to similar plans by EU member states.
The Norwegian government so far only provided a short response that did not answer these questions.
The EU’s increasing attention to the fate of unaccompanied migrant children arriving to Europe is a step in the right direction, Human Rights Watch said. In its five-year asylum and migration strategy (part of the "Stockholm Program") adopted at the end of 2009, the EU calls for a joint and comprehensive response to address these children’s fate, taking into account the children’s best interests, and the elaboration of an action plan. The European Commission followed up on this call and presented its action plan on unaccompanied migrant children on May 6. The plan highlights existing gaps in laws and policies, takes a comprehensive approach in addressing challenges to meet these children’s needs, proposes common standards on guardianship and lawyers for children, and describes the complex reasons behind these children’s migration and the difficulties in identifying a long-term solution that serves their interests. The Council conclusions adopted yesterday represent member states’ joint response to the action plan and define further EU action in this area.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the EU Fundamental Rights Charter all demand special protection to children separated from their families, requiring decisions to return a child to be based on "the best interests of the child" and prohibiting the return of children to places where their safety and well-being is at risk.
Human Rights Watch, jointly with Save the Children and the Separated Children in Europe Programme, wrote on June 3 to EU governments, calling on them to recognize the need for children to be represented by guardians and lawyers when confronted with a return decision, and not to rush with plans that fail to address complex situations and might put children at risk.
"The EU Council conclusions appear to give member states the green light to move ahead with returns that could put children at risk," Troller said. "EU states need to put the needs of vulnerable children first."
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