Despite being 14 years old, Abdullah was expected to fight the Taliban when they entered his village.
He was taken to a training camp but managed to escape. An uncle sold land to pay an agent to facilitate the traumatic and dangerous journey experienced by many lone children each year: walking over mountains, travelling on precarious boats and on the back of lorries.
When he arrived in the UK, aged 16, Abdullah was exhausted and bewildered. He was given Discretionary Leave to Remain. He was taken into the care of Social Services and put into shared housing. He started to learn English and IT at college. The opportunity to learn to read, write and use computers was extremely exciting for Abdullah. In Afghanistan, he’d only had informal education for two years in his local mosque and he had always wanted to go to school.
The college environment was exciting but challenging, and Abdullah struggled to fit into such an unfamiliar context. His college referred him to REUK for additional support so we matched him with a volunteer educational mentor, Tim, an accountant who works in a large city firm and had never met an asylum-seeking child before. As they got to know each other they started to overcome their differences and personal situations.
As Abdullah approached his 18th birthday, he had to apply for an extension of his Discretionary Leave to Remain. Some of Abdullah’s friends had already done this and been refused. Because they were no longer children, they were told they could not remain in the UK.
Detention and forced removal to Afghanistan become a real possibility, despite all the progress Abdullah was making at college. In the face of real uncertainty, stress and fear, he started to struggle to cope with life. Tim was worried by the change in Abdullah, who was now close to dropping out of college, and approached REUK for help.
Through our Youth on the Move programme (which REUK used to run specifically for young Afghans in Abdullah's situation), we provided some additional practical and emotional support to Abdullah and Tim. Making time to listen to and address some of his specific concerns enabled Tim and Abdullah to keep their mentoring sessions focussed on education, encouraging Abdullah to keep engaging with his studies and investing in his future.