Britain to send back young Afghan asylum seekers: report

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Britain is planning to build a "re-integration" centre in Afghanistan to forcibly return failed Afghan asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, a report said Tuesday.

The new British government plans to build the four million pound (5.8 million dollar, 4.8 million euro) centre, which immigration officials hope could help return up to 12 under-18-year-olds per month, said The Guardian newspaper.

Returning young asylum seekers would be a major policy shift, since until now their repatriation has been blocked by child protection concerns and a vow only to return them if adequate care arrangements were in place, the daily said.

An official tender for the Afghan centre shows that immigration officials initially hope to return 12 under-18s a month to Afghanistan and provide "reintegration assistance" for 120 adults a month.

The Home Office declined to confirm or deny the report.

But Immigration Minister Damian Green -- a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's new coalition government -- said Britain was working with European and other countries to deal with the issue.

"No one should be encouraging children to make dangerous journeys across the world," he said.

"Therefore we are looking to work with other European countries such as Norway and valued international partners, such as UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), as well as the Afghan government to find ways to help these young men in their home countries."

It was also studying how to "return those who are in the UK safely to their home nations with appropriate support once they arrive," he added in comments issued by his office in response to The Guardian report.

Britain's new coalition government of Cameron's Conservative Party and the centrist Liberal Democrats, which ousted Labour premier Gordon Brown after May 6 elections -- has put Afghanistan top of its foreign policy agenda.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, largely battling Taliban militants in the volatile southern Helmand province.

Another British soldier was killed in Helmand on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, bringing to 293 the number of the country's troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

© 2010 AFP

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