Straight up: Deported – one-way flight to Kabul

Zach Khadudu is a Kenyan by birth and a journalist by choice. He is a commentator and an activist with a passion for refugee and human rights. He may share a heritage with a certain US president, but his heart lies elsewhere – in the written and spoken word.

On an outbound Turkish Airlines flight, two Afghan boys are making a commotion. They are shouting at the top of their lungs. The passengers are concerned, and the pilot is called in.

This flight was going nowhere (Photo: colourbox)

Air outrage
The boys, sandwiched between two white officers, make their case to the pilot: they are being forcefully transported to Afghanistan. The pilot always has the final word. The boys cannot fly on his plane. The boys and their escorts are let off the plane.

That was the scene at Copenhagen Airport on December 2. The two boys were Mustafa and Zekrya. Their white escorts were Danish police officers. You see, Zekrya and Mustafa are refugees from Afghanistan. They arrived in the country in 2010 as unaccompanied minors. At the time, Zekrya was 15, Mustafa was just 11. The Convention of the Rights of the Child requires that such children be granted protection if they seek refugee status or any other humanitarian help as may be needed.

“You don’t look 15”
As it often happens, the authorities did not believe these young kids. So later in 2010, Zekrya was sent off to take a controversial age test. The test, which notable high-ranking scientific journals consider dubious, suggested that Zekrya was 18. The authorities ran with that result. In a matter of hours, a 15-year-old kid had ‘transformed’ into an adult – and was being treated as such. In the meantime, Zekrya converted to Christianity.

After a long, winding case and appeals, the boys received a final rejection. Sometime in November 2014, they were locked up in the notorious Ellebæk Prison awaiting deportation. On December 2, flanked by police officers, they were put on a one-way trip to Kabul. Thanks to other passengers on that flight, a handful of activists who turned up at Copenhagen Airport, and the kind-hearted pilot (peace!), the boys escaped that deportation. They were sent back to Ellebæk while the authorities figure out another way to deport them.

Hundreds in detention
Hundreds of asylum-seekers are locked up at Ellebæk and other prisons awaiting deportation. While deportation in certain specific cases may be justified on grounds of crime or national security, the deportation of unaccompanied kids who arrive in Denmark to seek asylum beats any reason.

It doesn’t help that the authorities buy their time by keeping these kids in camps until there are 18 to justify deporting them. The case of these kids is but the tip of a widespread infringement of children’s rights. In the last couple of years alone, the authorities have deported hundred of failed asylum-seekers – among them children.

These deportations end up putting the deportees in more danger than ever before. The police officers escort the deportees to their home countries. Once at the airport in their foreign countries, the officers take their flight back, leaving the deportees at the mercy of the authorities of the same countries they had run from. Most end up jailed, tortured and killed.