SUFFOLK: Increasing numbers of Afghan children are being smuggled into Suffolk in a disturbing off-shoot of the war on terror, it can be revealed. Desperate to flee the war-ravaged country, new figures show 23 Afghan children – some as young as 11 – were taken into care by Suffolk County Council since July last year. This makes up around 60 per cent of the 39 children found to have been smuggled into the county over the past 12 months, although many more may have entered undetected. Meanwhile refugee Izaac Darbous has today told how his family is thriving in Ipswich after he fled the war torn Darfur region of Sudan, arriving in Felixstowe clinging to the underside of a lorry.
His family spent years apart from him while they were in a refugee camp in Chad but today they are finally able to live altogether without facing the daily threat of death.
Experts say the increasing trend of Afghans heading for Suffolk, mirrored nationwide, is a result of the escalating conflict in Afghanistan. With allied forces looking to crack down on Taliban insurgents, more people are being affected by the brutal fighting. Many youngsters are fleeing the violence with some ending up in the UK following long trips through Europe that see them stow away on ships headed for Felixstowe.
Gerard Jones, head of corporate parenting at Suffolk County Council, said although there has been an increase in Afghan youngsters being found and cared for in Suffolk, the overall figure remains comparatively low. He said: “You find it is where there are wars going on that you get children coming from.“There has been an increase this year although the figures are a bit up and down.
“They have obviously got traumatic backgrounds and some will have been witness to some terrible things coming from a war zone.“Some of them will have traveled a long way in sometimes tragic circumstances and encountered various difficulties.”
Mr Jones said the majority of Afghan children arriving in Suffolk are 16 or 17 although some are as young as 11 or 12. As well as care provided by Suffolk County Council support programmes are in place to help young refugees adapt to life in England. Ipswich-based group the Friends Project set up jointly by the Refugee Council and the Red Cross is helping a number of young Afghans who have entered Suffolk.
Andy Hewitt, of the Red Cross, said: “Young, unaccompanied asylum seekers meet up once a week and we cook them a meal, go out and do activities and provide somewhere relatively relaxed and stable for them to come.” Afghan refugee Naematullah “Matt” Rahmati, 24, came to the UK eight years ago at the age of 16 and has now settled in Ipswich. He has settled in the country after fleeing the Taliban, successfully winning leave to stay in the country and told the Star he was aware there had been a number of young Afghans arriving in Ipswich recently but has had limited contact with them himself.-SANA