Child asylum-seekers should stay in Britain, says Emma Thompson


Emma Thompson has criticised Government policy towards child asylum seekers, many of whom are offered years of protection before being deported as soon as they turn 18.

The actress, who "informally adopted" 24-year-old Rwandan refugee Tindyebwa Agaba in 2003 and legally sponsored his successful battle to stay in Britain, has spoken out against officials' treatment of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, who become easier to deport as soon as they become adults.

"It is current British policy to send back lone child refugees as soon as they turn 18 to the war zones from which they fled," Thompson said. "But no one has any idea what then happens to these kids, who've adapted to British life."

Referring to Mr Agaba, who graduated from Exeter University last year, she said she was happy to have seen him "flourish and achieve his potential". She added: "I wish others could be given the same chances as him, and not thrown out of their lives here, at the very point when they start to become useful and effective adults."

Thompson is supporting Hamedullah: The Road Home, a film by children's rights campaigner and director Sue Clayton, which will be screened by Amnesty International at London's Tricycle Cinema on Thursday.

The film follows the story of former child asylum seeker Hamedullah Hassany, 21, who was seized and deported after a dawn raid in Canterbury in November 2008. He is currently unemployed and living in Northern Afghanistan.

"The reason I made this, really, is that he is a human being and I am tired of asylum seekers being referred to just in headlines," said Ms Clayton. "I knew him as a person. Just imagine if it was one of our own kids. You want to understand how they might survive."

There are around 4,000 unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Britain. The Home Office automatically tells them to leave as they approach their 18th birthday. They have the right to appeal, but it is estimated that only around 7 per cent are successful.

Thompson said she "sympathised" with Mr Hassany's story. Mr Agaba's father died of Aids when he was nine, and his mother and sister were listed as missing after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Thompson and her husband, actor Greg Wise, met Mr Agaba when he was 16 at a London party organised by asylum seeker charity The Refugee Council.

The Home Office reportedly made approaches to ask him to return to Rwanda, though this was successfully opposed by Thompson in court. The former refugee has since been granted indefinite leave to remain.

Ms Clayton said she met Ms Thompson after they bonded over their shared anger about the UK's treatment of child asylum seekers. She said these included a lack of preparation for complex legal battles, because many arrived with little or no documentation relating to their backgrounds.

"Many of them come here illiterate," she said. "And then when they reach 18 they are snatched in the night."

Thompson said: "Hamedullah: The Road Home is a very important film... how will he survive? They are kids, and very vulnerable and brave at that, and not simply a statistic."

In an earlier interview, Thompson said Mr Agaba hoped to become a politician, potentially in Rwanda. She added: "Of course, I want him to be president."

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam