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Royal Holloway film about young Afghan refugee 'could change Government policy'

Posted on 13/11/2012
Hamedullah: The Road Home

A film charting the plight of a young Afghan refugee deported from the UK could influence Government policy, after the filmmakers submitted it as evidence to a parliamentary human rights committee.

Hamedullah: The Road Home, directed by Royal Holloway lecturer Sue Clayton, follows the story of Hamedullah Hassany, who fled from Afghanistan as a child. He lived in Kent until the day after his 18th birthday, when UK Border Agency officers detained him following a dawn raid.

The documentary, which was partly made using hidden video cameras, follows Hamedullah’s journey home, from the day he was arrested to his return back to Afghanistan - a country where few of his family and friends remained. It has gained high-profile backing from supporters including the actress Emma Thompson. She said she sympathised with Hamedullah’s story after she adopted a Rwandan refugee in 2003.

The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Hywel Francis MP, launched an inquiry last month into the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in the UK. They have asked to see the independent film as part of their evidence.

Indeed, lawyers have shown the film during appeal hearings in the immigration courts and barristers have formally submitted it as part of a current judicial review. Following a screening in Garden Court, one of the largest barristers’ chambers in the UK, it is also being considered for use in training immigration judges.

Sue Clayton, a lecturer in screenwriting for TV and film in the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway said: “We urgently need to address the human rights of children and young people who have fled from war torn countries. I feel proud that Hamedullah’s story is shining a light on serious shortcomings in their treatment and could now contribute towards a change in Government policy.”

An established feature film screenwriter and director, Sue has become well-known for her work with refugee children. She made contact with Hamedullah when he called desperately asking for her to help his friend who had been detained. In fact, two weeks later, he too was arrested.

To this day, Sue still keeps in touch with Hamedullah, who emails her once a week from Afghanistan. Through box office takings for the film and various donations, enough money has been raised to send Hamedullah to a college in Mazar-e-Sharif, where he is studying IT and civil engineering.

Even though he has had some contact with his family, many Afghans who know that he has been deported are wary of him and assume that he must be a criminal.

Sue added: “Every year, about 2,000 lone children come to the UK from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve left behind desperate situations, and arrive with few documents or evidence, but are full of hope and expectation.

“As soon as they turn 18 though, they are arrested by the Home Office in terrifying dawn raids. They are held without further trial and flown out on secret ‘ghost flights’ to be dumped, penniless and unprepared, back into the war zones they fled as children. Something must be done to change this.”

The filmmakers’ evidence to the committee includes the proceedings of the Facing the Abyss conference, which examined the experiences of separated children seeking asylum. It was run by Sue and Anna Gupta, Head of the Department of Social Work at Royal Holloway, and attracted speakers such as Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights is expected to hold its public hearings in November and December. Its recommendations to the House of Commons and House of Lords will be submitted no later than Easter 2013.


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