Thousands of Afghans who worked alongside British troops are still waiting to be processed under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), two years after the fall of Kabul. Despite the government’s pledge to reduce the backlog to zero within days, around 18,000 unique applications are yet to be processed. Additionally, 3,400 Afghans who have already been approved for relocation remain stranded in Afghanistan or hotels in Pakistan. This failure to act has prompted calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to personally intervene.
The Afghan citizens who worked with British forces fear for their lives due to revenge killings, arrests, and disappearances under the Taliban. Meanwhile, those stuck in Pakistan are unable to leave their hotels as their visas have expired. Former military officials, Members of Parliament and the Afghan pilot advocating for asylum in the UK have criticized the government’s inaction. They argue that the government’s requirement for eligible Afghans to find their own accommodation in the UK is an “extraordinary ask” and that the government seems to have no plan for relocating these people. They have urged for urgent action to ensure the safety of these individuals.
To address the backlog, the Ministry of Defence’s Arap team has significantly accelerated its decision-making process. It has rejected around 36,000 applications since April 2021, with over 69,000 applications now deemed ineligible. However, out of the 141,000 applications received, only 3,527 have been granted eligibility. The situation remains dire for the 255 Afghans hiding in Afghanistan and the 1,400 individuals stuck in British High Commission hotels in Pakistan.
Many Afghans awaiting relocation in Pakistan described their circumstances as hopeless, living in cramped hotel rooms without access to education, healthcare, and employment. They are unable to leave for fear of being sent back to Afghanistan by Pakistani authorities. Former military officials and politicians have called on the government to fulfill its promise to support these individuals and provide them with safe passage to the UK. However, there has been a lack of response and an absence of a concrete plan from the government.
There are concerns that the government is hesitant to bring in more people from Afghanistan and Pakistan until it has resolved the housing crisis affecting Afghans currently in the UK. However, there is consensus among critics that the government has a responsibility to relocate these individuals as they fought alongside British forces and passed the Arap and ACRS tests. Pressure is being applied to local authorities to find suitable accommodation for Afghans awaiting relocation.
In conclusion, the UK government’s failure to process thousands of Afghans eligible for relocation under Arap is leaving them in perilous situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Critics argue that the government needs to urgently address the backlog and fulfill its promise to provide safe passage to the UK for these individuals. The lives of those who worked alongside British forces are at stake, and it is imperative that the government takes immediate action to ensure their safety.