Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010
Big rise in Afghan child migrants

By Martin Patience
BBC News, Kabul

As a 15-year-old, Aman Ahmedi set off on a journey for a better future - but it was to cost him his family.

His parents paid for Aman and his younger brother, Qais, who was 14 at the time, to be illegally trafficked to the UK.

Former child immigrant to UK on why he wants to return

They travelled through central Asia in vehicles and on foot before reaching Moscow.

From there, they travelled through Europe, eventually making it to France. The two boys were then loaded onto shipping containers and, finally, made it to Britain.

"My parents sent us because they wanted us to have a good life, a good future and to have a chance of getting a decent education," said Aman.

"That's why they spent a lot of money on sending us to the UK."

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, where opportunities are hard to come by, unemployment is high, and an insurgency rages in many areas.

Many Afghans see Britain as place of work and plenty - a country where a better life beckons.

Trade in human cargo

With the former ties of Empire and the international language of English, reaching London is an aspiration for many.

Every year, thousands of children attempt to make it to the UK.

An Afghan child trafficker admits many do not make it to Europe

United Nations aid agencies are warning of a sharp increase in unaccompanied Afghan children applying for asylum across Europe.

The trade in human cargo is a multi-million-pound industry kept hidden in the shadows.

In a rare interview, we met one trafficker who makes journeys like Aman's possible.

Yassin, who did not want to be identified, said it was a business full of hardship, danger and sometimes death.

He told me that people are first taken into Iran and then smuggled into Turkey. From there they are trafficked to Europe. But some do not make it that far.

"In Turkey the police caught us and imprisoned us for a month. We were finally released and told to go back to Iran," Yassin told me.

"But in the mountains, the Kurds chased us and we tried to escape. They killed many of us.

"Of the 45 that set out, only 15 survived."

Football hopes

Yassin said that after witnessing what happened first-hand, he gave up his trade in trafficking.

Aman was luckier. He arrived in Britain in 2001.

When my parents sent us they said they would follow but I've no idea where they are

He stayed and studied in Bournemouth at a local college for four years, along with his brother. Aman played football for a local football club competing in tournaments across the country.

He started supporting Manchester United and had hoped to become a professional footballer.

But Aman was removed from the UK in 2005 as an illegal immigrant. He is now 24 and lives unemployed in Kabul with distant relatives and says he is desperate to find work.

Aman believes his brother, Qais, is still in Bournemouth.

But as for his parents - and nine other brothers and sisters - he has not seen or heard from them in almost a decade.

"I've got no idea where my family is," he said. "When my parents sent us they said they would follow but I've no idea where they are - no idea."

They may be in the UK, where Aman says he longs to return to.

"I can't because I don't have any money. But... it would mean a new life to go back to England." He paused. "A new life."

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