UK deports an Afghan learner back to Terror
Introduced by Judy Baker
Teenage Abbas and I met after a friend asked if I could give him some lessons to boost his confidence in speaking to the press. The press were interested in him because a friend and he had just been released from deportation centres on legal technicalities. His friend, Amin, was a popular student at a local secondary school and his fellow students were very vocal about how much they wanted him to stay in the UK.
Abbas (Abrahim) and Amin are just two of many teenage boys who have fled Afghanistan. Abbas's father was imprisoned and then killed and his body was dumped in front of the family home.
It is difficult to think of how desperate families must be to allow their sons to leave and make the journey to England hidden in trucks. I have heard stories of what happens on some of these trips but I have never been able to ask Abbas about his trip and he has never offered to tell me, although he has told me many other stories.
When we met, Abbas had taught himself to speak and to write basic English, but was not a confident writer and didn't much like reading because he found it slow and frustrating. I loved our lessons. It was a bit like feeding titbits to a ravenous crocodile. Someone who has only had five years of schooling and really wants more is exciting to teach.
During one lesson, Abbas told me about his first detention. I wrote down everything he told me in his own words and then gave him back the typed transcript below. I corrected his use of tenses mostly and then we looked at, and talked about the differences in the texts. I hope I have stayed true to his story and the way he expressed it.
On the 8th of November, I was sleeping at my friend's house and the police came and took me to the removal centre in Dover. I was there for one week and they sent me to Oxford for one day and then to Dungavel in Scotland. They booked me a flight to Afghanistan on the 20th of November at one o'clock.
When I went for lunch, there was an officer who told me, 'Collect all your stuff and be ready to go.' I said okay. There was another boy who came from Afghanistan and I told him that the officer had said these things and he said, 'What?' And I said he said, 'Collect all your stuff and be ready to go' and the boy said, 'Did you ask him where?' and I said, 'No, I didn't'. He said, Why? Go and ask him'. I said 'Fine' and I went to his office and I said,
'Excuse me. Where do you want to send me?'. He said he didn't know and I went back to our room and the boy said, 'Did you ask him?' I said he didn't know. The boy said, 'Go and ask him again.' I said OK and went to the office again and asked the officer again. He said, 'Hang on a minute.' He rang the lady on reception. They talked about me and the lady said, 'We are sending him back to his home'. I said, 'Where, Afghanistan?' The officer said, 'Where do you live in the UK?' I said, 'Kent.' And he said 'Then we will send you to Kent.' I was very happy at that time. I told the boy that they were sending me to Kent and he was very very happy too.
They gave me a train ticket and they took me to the train station and they said, 'This train is going to London first and then you go to Kent'. The officer smiled and said 'We don't want to see you again.'
I travelled for nine hours to get to Whitstable. No-one knew I was released. My friends were having a party for another friend, Amin, who had been released. I rang one of my friends and he didn't answer his phone. I was sad. I rang another friend and he said 'Where are you?'. I said ' I am in Whitstable'. He said 'I am coming.' He came and gave me a big hug.
We went to our friends' house and he said ' Can you hide behind this window?' I said 'Yeah. Fine.' He said to the boys, 'Someone wants to see you all.' And everyone asked, 'Who, who wants to see us all?' They all came outside and saw me. All of the boys gave me a hug and everyone was very happy. We went into the house and four of my friends were crying. We were all very happy.
Abbas has been detained again. Amazingly, the UK has declared Afghanistan a safe country and young asylum seekers are due for deportation from the UK as soon as they turn eighteen. It is clear that these young men are terrified of what lies ahead for them and they do not believe that they are returning to a safe country. When I visited Abbas yesterday (June 12th 2005) in the Removal Centre, he was thin, withdrawn and looked ill. He has come to the end of the line with legal appeals. He doesn't know the date of his deportation but knows that he faces a future searching for any surviving members of his family and only two weeks protection in a camp in Kabul.
13 June 05