Education is my freedom... if I have my education, everything is still possible for me in the future.
Mohammed grinned, and looked down at his newly acquired university student card. He'd just enrolled for his first term at university as the beneficiary of a scholarship for asylum-seeking young people classed as international students and unable to pay fees or cover living expenses. At that moment, after years of struggle, the future was looking brighter.
Mohammed arrived in the UK from Afghanistan as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC) aged 14, and, like all UASC in the UK, was looked after by a local authority until he turned 18. An unprecedented number of UASC
(https://data2.unhcr.ora/en/documents/download/58431) have arrived in Europe over the last decade, and young_Afghans_make_up_the_largest_group_of_these_children_in_the_UK
(http://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS UASC Report Final FOR PUBI_ICATION.pdf). Despite a wealth of UK policies aimed at ensuring positive outcomes for young people who have been through the care system, less is known about their experiences after they reach the age of eighteen. Research conducted by Refugee Support Network within a UNUWIDER research project sheds new light on the important role of educational achievement (https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/impact-educational-achievement-intearation-and-wellbeing-afghan-refugee-vouth-uk) in creating socioeconomic opportunities for young people like Mohammed, and highlights the problematic and pervasive influence of unresolved immigration status. The future, it suggests, may not be as bright as Mohammed hopes.
Young Afghans in the UK
(https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0003/9781/Asvlum Statistics Annual Trends Feb 2017.pdf) Afghan UASCs are granted refugee status in the UK. The majority are granted a temporary form of leave, formerly 'Discretionary Leave to Remain'--more recently
UASC Leave, which allows them to remain in the UK until they reach the age of 18. At the age of 17.5 years, they begin a protracted process of applying for extended leave to remain in the UK--many are refused, and risk being forced to return to Afghanistan. Since 2007, just over 2,000 care leavers have been forcibly removed to Afghanistan (https://hubble-live-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/rsn/attachment/file/8/After return April 2016.pdf). and increasing numbers remain in limbo in the UK after being refused asylum and having exhausted all their rights to appeal...