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Rights groups condemn UK plan to return asylum-seeking children to Afghanistan

A UK plan that would return children who arrive in the country without a guardian to Afghanistan is being heavily criticized by human rights organizations and refugee advocacy groups. The UK plan calls for the building of a "reintegration center" [Al Jazeera report] in Kabul where approximately 12 males ages 16 to 17 would be sent per month. The UK plan is in line with an EU policy [press release] regarding unaccompanied minors, which stipulates that the best interest of the child must be considered and that returning a child to his country of origin must include a process of reintegration. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] praised certain parts of the EU policy [press release], but added that protecting the safety of the children as well as their legal rights must be a top priority in these cases. The Refugee Council [advocacy website] criticized the UK plan [press release], questioning the decision to return children to a country where they have no family and indicating that little has been said about how the children will be kept say once they have been returned. The advocacy group Refugee and Migrant Justice [advocacy website] contends that the reintegration center will put the safety of the children at risk [press release]. The group also criticized the practice of interviewing refugee children without an adult or proper legal representation, saying the practice leads to "a miscarriage of justice." Similar plans are also being considered in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.

On Monday, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged European leaders to stop the upcoming deportation of asylum seekers to Iraq [press release; JURIST report] because their human rights may be violated in unsafe regions of the country. Authorities in the UK, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands are taking part in a joint effort to return the refugees to Iraq after the asylum petitions of many of the refugees were denied. Last month, an Iraqi refugee won a suit [BBC report] against the UK Home Office [official website] in which he claimed that he was threatened illegally with deportation to Iraq after being accused of committing terrorist activities. The UK High Court found that the man's arrest and detention were illegal. The UK government also announced last month that it will review [JURIST report] the country's Human Rights Act [BBC backgrounder] after two Pakistani terror suspects successfully avoided deportation due to concerns for their safety. Certain regions in Iraq remain dangerous [JURIST comment], with violence often targeted against civilians and minorities [JURIST report].

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