LONDON: More than 4,000 Afghans who supported the British military during the evacuation of Kabul in August remain stranded as the UK redirects resources to the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has admitted that 1,000 people eligible for Britain’s Afghan Resettlement Assistance scheme, along with their families, remain in Afghanistan, with charities saying the total number exceeds 4,000.
An ARAP candidate told The Independent he ‘feared for his life’ and had been forced to stay in Afghanistan despite UK approval.
The 27-year-old said: “We live in fear, in hiding. If we have to buy food, we have to ask someone else to go out for us. We are trying to protect ourselves, but this is not going to continue. The Taliban have more and more facilities to hunt us down. I feel like we’ve been forgotten.
“I know the UK is paying the utmost attention to the war in Ukraine, but please keep its promises to us. We have protected and supported you; it is your turn to help us.
Sarah Magill, director of Azadi Charity, which supports ARAP candidates, told The Independent that resources had been “significantly stretched due to the government’s redeployment of ARAP team members for the invasion of Ukraine. “.
Magill added: “It is evident that there is an urgent need to expand the ARAP task force without exhausting the detachment of resources to Ukraine, and we call on the government to ensure that action is taken urgently. before more lives are lost.”
However, a Defense Ministry source described the handling of ARAP cases as an “absolute shambles”, with the government’s lack of communication leaving Afghans “scared for their future”.
The source added, “The communications (situation) from the government are terrible. Afghans in vulnerable situations – some at high risk – will send details and documents, and they don’t even get a hold email. It’s just stony silence. Army colleagues are appalled.
The regime’s apparent arbitrariness, with some cases being dealt with much more quickly than others, compounds failures, the source said.
It’s “an almost completely arbitrary process” with “a complete lack of transparency,” the source added. “When you’re dealing with people’s lives, that’s not how it should be. It’s often life and death situations, but the political will isn’t there.