After Return

After Return documents the experiences of former child asylum-seekers who have been forcibly removed to Afghanistan after turning 18, filling a vital evidence gap in their education, employment, health, and wellbeing outcomes.

The majority of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are granted a temporary form of leave, which allows them to remain in the UK until they reach the age of 18. Many of those who apply for further leave to remain in the UK are refused, and risk being forced to return to Afghanistan after spending formative years as looked after children in the UK care system. Since 2007, 2,018 care leavers have been forcibly removed to Afghanistan, yet, prior to this study, no rigorous monitoring of their experiences or wellbeing after return had been carried out.

This report monitors 25 care leavers returned to Afghanistan, through a series of 153 interviews carried out in Kabul over a period of 18 months.

 

Without exception, the young people monitored reported experiencing a range of interconnected difficulties on return, including challenges reuniting with family members, insecurity, acute mental health issues, challenges continuing any form of education or meaningful work, and poverty.

 

Young returnees struggle to imagine or create a future for themselves in Afghanistan. At the close of the research process, six young people had already left Afghanistan, and the whereabouts of 11 more were unknown.

Since its publication in 2016, this report has lead to changes in UN country guidance documents for Afghanistan and has been cited in a large number of appeal decisions.

 

Read the full report here and the accompanying policy recommendations here

Young people’s circumstances on return contrast starkly with the UK government’s ambition to “give care leavers the same level of care and support that other young people receive from their parents" and how distant they are from UK initiatives which have been created “to support [care leavers] into and through their early adult lives and into more secure and settled futures”. Seeking more settled futures for themselves, young returnees articulated their desire to leave Afghanistan again, in spite of the risks of the journey.