Shameful waste of refugees

4th April 2003 at 01:00
WE have read the article in the March 14 issue of The TES, "Fury over pupils' deportation", and would like to say that the staff at the William Morris Academy share the shock and concern expressed by the teachers of the pupils deported to Kosovo shortly before they were due to sit their GCSE exams.

We have many students who are asylum-seekers, some of whom arrived in the UK as unaccompanied children, and have been given to understand that those from Kosovo, Eritrea and Afghanistan are at imminent risk of deportation since these countries are now deemed to be "safe" places to return to.

There are three points in particular that we feel are not being given appropriate consideration by the Home Secretary.

The first is the definition of a "safe" place, which is extremely important given the trauma suffered by asylum seekers prior to their arrival in the UK, and exacerbated if they have spent time in a detention centre here.

The second is the effect on these young people of being forcibly removed from the UK during their education and thus prevented from obtaining qualifications that could make a great difference both to their future and that of their country of origin should they return there.

The third is the effect on the educational institution from which they are removed - on their teachers, friends and fellow students, and also the effect on this country of removing young people who would be a most undoubted asset in the future.

Deeming certain countries as "safe" places is decided by the Home Secretary and coincides uncomfortably with promises made by the Government to drastically cut the number of asylum-seekers here. In countries that have suffered extensive bombing, these families frequently do not have a home left standing to which to return.

As educationists, committed to inclusion, we feel particularly strongly about the education of these young people. Despite surviving dreadful experiences, they value education highly, are excellent students and an inspiring example to us. Many are committed to careers in medical and health contexts, teaching and the caring professions, and will be valuable members of society in whichever country they settle. As a wealthy, first world country we should feel proud and privileged to be educating these youngsters.

We urge the Government to urgently rethink this shameful and damaging policy.

Liz Walton Principal William Morris Academy St Dunstan's Road, London W6

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