The visit took place after Norway recently provided NOK 15 million in financial support to a UNICEF project protecting some of the most vulnerable children in Afghanistan: Unaccompanied minors deported from neighboring Iran.
The number of unaccompanied minors being deported from Iran has reached up to 300 on average a month in 2016 and UNICEF together with its partner WarChildUK is working with Afghan authorities to provide counselling and support for their reintegration home. The services start at the Islam Qala border point, where the deported minors are screened and taken to accommodation facilities at the Ansar Transit Center in Herat City. Social workers then provide them with psychosocial support and family reunification services.The center also conducts post re-unification tracking and monitoring.
After being received by the Director of the Department of Refugees and Repatriation, Mr. Jawid Nadem, the Ambassador met with the young boys staying at the center. Telling his story, one boy explained that like so many others, he had heard about work opportunities in Iran. With little prospects for work in his home of Kunduz he decided to try his luck. He paid smugglers, further indebting his family to take him on the journey across the border. This boy did not get far. He said he was caught by Iranian authorities a few days later, searched for money, beaten and detained for days before being deported – his last personal belongings confiscated.
“I hear similar stories every day,” says one social worker at the centre. “Children often work in hazardous construction sites or in agriculture for many months and then when their wages are due, the police are called and the child deported. They suffer abuse at the hands of their employers and the authorities” she continued.
With support from Norway, UNICEF and partners are also working on developing a campaign to pass messages to communities about the dangers of illegal migration, especially focused on young boys. Without their family, migrating children are highly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and trafficking, and the best way to protect them is to prevent families from sending their children on hazardous journeys in the first place.