Teenage Afghan who feared deportation by UK took own life, coroner rules

Teenage Afghan who feared deportation by UK took own life, coroner rules
A community-led project supporting young asylum seekers in the UK said there is a 'mental health crisis' facing teenage migrants because of 'the hostile asylum system and brutal austerity cuts to children's social care and mental health services'.
4 min read
09 September, 2021
Refugee charities say investment into social and mental health services in the UK is needed to prevent further teenage deaths [Getty]

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker who feared deportation back to Afghanistan from the UK took his own life earlier this year, a coroner has ruled.

The 19-year-old refugee, who arrived in the UK unaccompanied aged 13, was given temporary leave to remain until he turned 18 - the age of majority. As an adult, he risked deportation by the UK Home Office. 

The teenager was found dead in the garden of his accommodation in Birmingham on 21 April.

Lousie Hunt, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, ruled that the cause of death was suicide. 

Stacy Clifford, the young refugee's personal advisor, told an inquest that the Afghan was anxious about the uncertainty of his asylum claim. 

“He was a bit upset because he hadn’t heard from his solicitor about his immigration case,” said Clifford. 

She said the young man was not motivated to keep himself clean or study at college when stuck in limbo over his residency in the UK.  

It was also suspected the 19-year-old was a victim of modern slavery, as he worked unpaid in a pizza shop. 

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This is one of several suicides involving young asylum seekers reported in the UK this year. 

In April 2021, a 22-year-old asylum seeker who fled abuse in Namibia was found dead at his home in East Yorkshire. 

Romeo Nguase was forced to relocate to Hull by the UK Home Office where he became isolated in poor living conditions, according to his family. 

A group of four teenage Eritrean boys took their own lives within a 16-month period from November 2017 to February 2019 after arriving in the UK as unaccompanied teenagers. 

The Da’aro Youth project - set up after the four suicides - together with 46 UK charities, including the Refugee Council and Mind, wrote to Nadine Dorries MP, Minister for Suicide Prevention, in July 2021 to express their concern over the alarming number of deaths among unaccompanied teenage asylum seekers. 

Project Coordinator at Da’aro Youth Project Benny Hunter has called the suicides of young people “unprecedented” in number. 

“The mental health crisis facing young asylum-seekers and refugees is a consequence of the hostile asylum system and of brutal austerity cuts to children’s social care and mental health services,” said Hunter.  

The New Arab spoke to one Afghan asylum seeker who has been in the UK for five months and is waiting to hear back from the UK Home Office. 

The person said they were “not very good” following the Taliban’s lightning offensive and had growing anxieties over the safety of family still in Afghanistan. 

The asylum seeker said they suffered from anxiety and depression, adding that they felt it was not uncommon given the intensity and uncertainty of their situation. 

They were only able to get in contact with mental health services once via a short call that was terminated for no given reason, they told The New Arab. 

The individual is not able to access medication for their mental health yet and is relying on supplies they brought over from Afghanistan. 

They said there has been limited contact with the UK Home Office. 

A Home Office spokesperson said they were “saddened” by the suicide of the 19-year-old when approached for comment. 

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” they said.  

The UK government launched "Operation Warm Welcome" on 1 September to support Afghan refugees who have come to Britain after fleeing the Taliban. The scheme supposedly provides the services needed "to rebuild their lives". 

Around ten thousand Afghans are currently quarantining in hotels in Britain, and thousands more are set to come over the next five years.