Hundreds of Afghans who helped British forces wait months to be relocated

'Britain has a moral duty to assist and protect them', says Labour's John Healey

More than 100 Afghans arrive in the UK after being flown out of an unidentified third country by the RAF in October 2021. Ministry of Defence / PA
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Afghans who helped British forces in Afghanistan and were promised protection are waiting at least six months to be relocated, official figures show.

About 240 Afghan nationals at risk after the Taliban swept back into power in August 2021 are eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, which was set up to relocate local staff to the UK.

Defence Minister James Heappey said the UK government was relocating people as quickly as possible but there were “a range of potential issues" that could delay moving them, including documentation and security concerns.

“The Conservatives are failing Afghans who supported our armed forces," said Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey.

“The government is simply not dealing with Arap relocations and applications fast enough, while Afghans who worked alongside UK personnel are at grave risk from the Taliban.

"Britain has a moral duty to assist and protect them. Ministers urgently need to fix the Arap scheme.”

Liberal Democrats defence spokesman Jamie Stone agreed.

“The number of people promised protection under the Arap scheme and not yet relocated to the UK is scandalous," Mr Stone said.

“These people put their lives on the line to help UK forces during the war and were promised the chance to start a new life here in the UK.

“Instead, they’ve been left in limbo by the Conservative government. I urge the defence secretary to resolve this issue right away.”

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So far, about 10,000 people have been taken to the UK under the Arap scheme since it was launched in 2021.

But the government has come under sustained criticism over the speed of relocations and concerns for those who were still in Afghanistan, and possibly at risk since the Taliban took over the country last year.

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“As of August 31, 2022, we are aware of approximately 240 Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy eligible principals, who received an eligibility decision either on or prior to February 28, 2022, that have not been relocated to the UK," Mr Heappey said.

“We are relocating individuals and their family members as quickly as possible and have relocated over 1,000 individuals over the summer period.

“There are a range of potential issues which can delay the movement of individual … but we are actively communicating with all individuals to remove these barriers as quickly as possible.”

Updated: September 21, 2022, 11:08 PM
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